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Is It a Crime for Me to Lie to the Police?

Talking to the police can be nerve-wracking for a multitude of reasons, and it is not always the case that we are nervous because of some wrong action on our part. Some people suffer from anxiety, for example, which can make coming into contact with potentially aggressive authority figures.  Even with all this in mind, however, and hard as it can be, sometimes disproportionately so for vulnerable people, it’s important to try to remain calm while speaking with the police. Most importantly, you should not communicate information you know to be false to law enforcement. Please keep reading this article to understand why it’s important to never lie to police in New Jersey. Remember that if you’ve had a negative or painful experience with the police, you can always contact a Bergen County criminal defense attorney for help and advice.

Is it illegal to lie to the police?

Regardless of which side you find yourself, whether submitting a police report or answering questions from police officers, you cannot lie to police officers without opening yourself to legal liability. New Jersey state legislation includes various provisions banning lying or otherwise giving law enforcement false information.

“Giving law enforcement false information” is a purposely vague phrase that does well to encompass the wide range of behaviors illegal under New Jersey law. Because an ordinary spoken lie is not the only way you can give the police false information. You can also:

Knowingly File a False Report

This crime is found in N.J.S.A. 2C:28-4. Filing a false police report is the same thing as falsely accusing someone of a crime. Even if you only insinuate that someone committed a crime but do not directly claim it, you are still guilty of reporting false information to the police.

Obstruction of Justice

This crime is found in N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3, and it gets into a difficult moral area. Obstruction of justice is when someone prevents the arrest of another person, whether by hiding them, lying to police officers about where the person is, or helping the person flee from the police by giving them money or weapons. You may even end up in prison for multiple months if you are found guilty of the last example. Generally speaking, any action that impedes arrest is obstruction of justice and can result in you yourself being arrested.

Tampering with Public Documents

This crime is found in N.J.S.A. 2C:28-7. Tampering with documents and records includes altering a wider assortment of items than you may be aware of. Public documents can be court orders, I.D.s (hence including fake IDs), birth certificates, financial records, voting records, or meeting minutes, among others. Therefore, using a fake ID to buy beer does put you in a similar realm of severity as someone who used a fake birth certificate to hide their identity. Nor do you have to use fake IDs; simply making them constitutes criminal activity intended to mislead police under this statute.

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