Virginia is one of several states where filing a false police report can result in criminal charges.
However, this only applies to cases where an individual knowingly filed a deliberately falsified report.
For this reason, a false statement presents a complicated issue, and the outcome will largely depend on the specifics of your situation.
In this article, we’ll go over the basics of what happens after you file a false police report in Virginia.
What is a False Police Report?
In Virginia, it is illegal to:
- Knowingly give a false statement about a crime to a law enforcement officer, with the intent to mislead.
- Deliberately call or summon any law-enforcement official by phone with the intention of interfering with law-enforcement operations.
In practice, most false statement cases fall into the first category.
However, note that, under both definitions, you must have knowingly and intentionally filed a false report.
If you believed that you were telling the truth at the time, you have not committed a crime. For this reason, you should always contact the police if you are the victim of a crime.
Similarly, you should always try to provide the officers with the most accurate information that you can. Simply making a mistake is not a crime.
Can I retract a statement to the police?
In Virginia, retracting any kind of statement to the police is an uphill battle.
This is because pursuing justice is largely in the hands of the Commonwealth.
Commonwealth attorneys do not need the consent of the person who filed the police report to move forward with charges filed against an accused.
This means that retracting your statement can be difficult, as your statement is already part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
If you file a police report in good faith but later discover the information you provided to the police is false, you should make both the police and the Commonwealth’s attorney aware of this.
If a court hearing has already been set to hear the case against the accused, you should make an appearance in court and make the court aware of your mistake.
What if Someone Files a False Police Report Against Me?
Having a false police report filed against you can be a scary prospect.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of receiving a fair verdict.
For example, hiring an attorney and complying with any relevant protective orders and pre-trial requirements imposed by the court are both important things to do.
However, remember that someone claiming that they will file a false report against you is not the same as them actually doing so.
The state will inform you if they have decided to press charges against you.
Until that happens, you just need to sit tight and document all correspondence you have with the individual.
Treat the Charges Seriously
First, it’s important to remember that, even though the charges against you are false, you are still the target of an ongoing criminal investigation.
For this reason, it is highly important that you avoid incriminating yourself.
To that end:
- Contact an attorney immediately. No matter how weak the case against you is, you will always benefit from legal representation.
- Do not talk to the police without a lawyer present. Remember that you have the right to remain silent for a reason. It can be easy to incriminate yourself by saying the wrong thing, even if you have not committed any crime.
- Do not, under any circumstances, communicate with the person accusing you without a lawyer present.
- If you are charged with a crime due to the accusation, do not speak with the prosecutor in your case without your attorney present.
The most important thing to remember is that it is never in your best interests to speak about an ongoing legal matter with anyone except your own attorney.
Don’t talk about your case with a friend. Don’t talk about your case with the arresting officer.
Only talk about your case with your own attorney.
Comply with Any Protective Order Issued Against You
If the state has issued an emergency or preliminary protective order (also called a restraining order) against you, make sure you fully comply with it.
While it seems unfair to have restrictions placed on you for something you didn’t do, failing to comply with a protective order is a crime.
Doing so could both make your case work and result in additional charges.
You should also note that you can comply with a protective order while simultaneously fighting it.
By working with your lawyer, you can legally contest the validity or terms of the protective order.
However, for as long as the order is in effect, it is in your best interests to follow the protective order to the letter.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to build an evidence-based argument against your guilt.
For example, if witnesses can testify that you were not where your accuser claims you were, you probably have a strong case.
On the other hand, character witnesses can be a mixed bag.
While in some cases witnesses who can testify to your good character are crucial, in others they do more harm than good.
Always talk to your lawyer before going out of your way to look for character witnesses to testify on your behalf.
In a similar fashion, print off any correspondence you had with your accuser, and begin making a file of any and all interactions you have or had with them.
You can bring this file to your attorney, who may be able to find evidence among your texts and call logs.
False police reports are a complicated part of Virginia law, regardless of which side you end up on.
In either case, the best advice anyone can give you is to talk to a lawyer.
An experienced Virginia lawyer can help you manage your case, allowing you to avoid opening yourself up to extra legal trouble.