State Bill Seeking Harsher Penalties for False Reports

March 4th, 2015 by Tad Nelson in Houston Criminal Cases, Understanding Texas Law

According to the Galveston County Daily News, a missing child hoax has prompted legislatures to propose a new bill. The proposed bill came after a Galveston woman decided to fabricate a story about a child to have her vehicle returned. The proposed bill seeks to increase the penalties for false reporting of a missing child.

Filing a false police report does have criminal legal consequences. Many states even classify the intentional reporting of false reports as a felony.

Chapter 37 of the Texas Penal Code currently defines the crime of filing a false report regarding a missing child or person:

“A person commits an offense if, with the intent to deceive the person knowingly: files a false report of a missing child or missing person with a law enforcement officer or agency; or makes a false statement to a law enforcement officer or other employee of a law enforcement agency relating to a missing child or missing person.”

Currently this offense is a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $500.

Proposed Bill

The proposed bill, if passed, will become effective September 1, 2015. The proposed bill seeks to increase the punishment from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor where it can be shown that the false report was made in reference to a child under age 14. A Class A misdemeanor carries a fine of up to $4,000, jail time of up to 1 year, or both fine and confinement. Thus, the proposed bill attempts to impose the possibility of an active sentence if the false report is for a missing child under the age of 14.

Although filing a false report regarding a missing person or child is currently only punishable by fines, there exists a harsher penalty if prosecuted for filing a false report generally to law enforcement. The Texas Penal Code defines filing a false report to a peace officer, federal special investigator, or law enforcement employee. It states:

“A person commits an offense if, with intent to deceive, he knowingly makes a false statement that is material to a criminal investigation and makes the statement to: a peace officer or federal special investigator conducting the investigation, or to an employee of a law enforcement agency that is authorized by the agency to conduct the investigation and that the actor knows is conducting the investigation.”

An offense under this statute is punishable by a Class B misdemeanor. If convicted of a class B misdemeanor, punishment can include a fine of $2,000, jail time of 180 days, or a combination of both.

If you or someone you know is charged in Galveston or surrounding areas with filing a false report, whether pertaining to a missing person or child, you need experienced criminal defense attorneys on your team. Contact The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates and let our experienced staff assist in your case.

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