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Is it a Crime to Lie to a Police Officer?


It’s an interesting question because sometimes it is a crime to lie to the police and other times it’s not a crime to lie to the police.  The bottom line is, if the police are trying to question you for some sort of a crime they might think you’re involved with, you shouldn’t be talking to them.

Any attorney is going to tell you that.  You’re not going to help yourself.  You’re not going to out-smart the police.  At best, you’re going to give you side of the story which will give the prosecutors a chance to use it against you.  Remember, you’re a target.  So, they’re trying to figure out how they can convict you.  Another big thing I see when you talk to the police, sometimes they twist your words and say things you didn’t say.

Don’t Talk to Police

So, first and foremost, don’t talk to the police. But, if you talk to the police and you lie to them, it’s not necessarily illegal.  They’re trying to ask you questions.  The police lie to people all the time and there’s nothing wrong with that.  So, if you lie back to them when they’re asking you questions about a crime you may or my not have convicted.

I’m not seeing that that’s a crime.  Unless you’re in the federal jurisdiction where they’re trying to claim that your obstructing justice which again, is a hard thing to prove.California Penal Code 148.5

Where it is a crime to lie to the police is if you call the police up and you make a false police report.  Now you’re putting the police in action and you’re telling them things.  You’re wasting their time.  You’re wasting community resources, and the bottom line is, that’s going to be a crime.

So, it really depends on the circumstances that you’re talking to, whether or not lying to the police is or is not a crime.  And it’s important that if you’re in that position where you’ve said some things to the police and you are concerned that you’re going to be arrested or you’ve already been arrested and charged with Penal Code Section 148.5, for example — which has to do with lying to the police, filing a false police report and those type of crimes — you’re going to need to get to a criminal defense attorney.

Case Review to Determine Best Defense Strategy

Tell the attorney what happened.  Be honest.  I always like to just hear the punchline.  This is what they’re saying I did wrong.  Here’s what I actually did.  How can you help me?  Instead of giving me a whole hoard of information that basically you are defending what they’re claiming you did wrong.

I don’t really have anything to attach it to at that point.  I’m going to be shaking my head going, alright why are you telling me this?  Why are you telling me that?  First tell me what they’re claiming you did wrong and we’ll get that flushed and ferreted out and then the next thing is we’re going to talk about exact what really happened, what some of your defenses might be, and start making some moves to protect your rights, your reputation and your liberty.

So, when it comes to lying to the police, it’s not necessarily a very clear answer.  Other times I see lying to the police as a problem is what we call obstruction of justice.  That’s where you’re trying to block the police from doing their job.

You’re trying to get them off on some tangent while they’re trying to deal with making an arrest, collecting evidence during an investigation and that, a lot of time I do see obstruction of justice charges being filed against federal criminal defendants.  Very rarely, am I seeing that charge at the state level.

It’s a question of fact whether or not lying to the police is or is not a crime, but it could be a situation where you’re helping the police prove a crime against you.  So, you lie to the police when they ask you about whether or not you were involved in some sort of criminal activity, they then go get some information and evidence against you that shows that you’re lying, that’s going to help them prove the case against you.

Because they’re going to be able to show a jury that this guy is lying.  He’s telling the truth.  He has consciousness of guilt.  He knows he did something wrong and that’s why he lied to us, and therefore, he is guilty of the crime that we’re charging him of.

So, that’s another twist on lying to the police — what type of implications it has and you really just need to get to an attorney.  Don’t speak to the police anymore.  Don’t speak to anybody about any type of a criminal situation.  Let your attorney guide you and help you get through the process safely.

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About the Author

Named Top Los Angeles Criminal Attorney by LA Times and named one of the Top 100 criminal defense attorneys in California by the National Trial Lawyers Association. I'm the attorney other lawyers hire to defend them.