False Statement to an Officer

Making A False StatementOne of the fundamental rights that everyone in our country enjoys is the right to remain silent.  This right is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment, and applies to everyone including citizens, non-citizens, and juveniles.  The right to remain silent can also be misunderstood at times.  For example, it only applies to situations where a government official is doing the talking.  A person in a private setting may not be able to exercise his or her right to remain silent.  But once a person chooses to speak to a government official, who in most circumstances is a law enforcement officer, he or she has a legal obligation to be truthful.  If not, the state can pursue criminal charges for the crime of making a false statement to a law enforcement officer.

The crime of making a false statement does not apply to every single thing that a person says to an officer.  For example, if a person under investigation for DUI says they drank 2 beers and later admits they drank 4 this would not rise to the level of a separate crime.  There are two basic requirements that must be met under Maryland law for the state to prove this crime.  The first is that the state must prove that a defendant knowingly made the false statement.  If the defendant was mistaken this is not a crime.  Keep in mind that the statement does not have to be completely false, as it is still a crime if parts are true.  Second, the state must prove that the statement was made with the intent to deceive the law enforcement officer, and to cause an investigation or other action to be taken as a result of the statement.  The most common circumstances surrounding this offense are when a person untruthfully tells the police that someone has committed a crime such as an assault, and the police end up doing a criminal investigation as a result of the statement.  This situation is common in domestic violence incidents.  Another common cause of a false statement charge occurs when a person who is under arrest gives a fake name or wrong name, address or date of birth to a police officer in the course of an investigation.  Police are especially sensitive about people lying about their names and often use this crime as an add on charge even if the person later comes clean about their identity.

Under Maryland law there are two main types of false statement charges.  The most common is listed under section 9-501 of the criminal code, which lists crimes against public administration.  False statement to a law enforcement officer under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine.  The other type of false statement charge is listed under the fraud section of the Maryland criminal code.  Under state law it is considered identity fraud under Maryland criminal law 8-301 to knowingly and willingly assume the identity of another person for the purpose of avoiding prosecution for a crime.  This scenario typically plays out when a person who is on probation, has a prior criminal record or a suspended license gives the name of another person to a police officer.  Less common scenarios under this statue occur when a person gives a fake name to obtain something of value such as credit or services, or access the health care information.  A violation of this law is more serious than a standard false statement charge, and carries up to 1 year in jail.  Both of these false statement charges are often accompanied by additional counts for obstructing and hindering, which is a common law misdemeanor.

If you or a loved one has been charged with making a false statement it is important to contact a defense attorney immediately for a free consultation about your case.  This includes retaining an attorney for the commissioner initial appearance and a potential bail review.  District Court Commissioners and judges often equate an allegation of lying to a police officer with being a flight risk, and thus it may be more difficult to secure release pending trial.  Maryland false statement lawyer Benjamin Herbst has successfully handled these cases in numerous jurisdictions, and knows the best ways to have your case dismissed.  There may be serious collateral consequences of a conviction because this offense can be classified as a crime of dishonesty or moral turpitude, so do not walk into court without an experienced attorney by your side.  These cases often come down to the police officer’s word, and the word of a cop should never be the last word.
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