Making false statements to United States law enforcement officers is a crime under 18 US Code Section 1001. Generally speaking, it means that if a person knowingly and willfully makes false statements in their jurisdiction of executive, legislative or judicial branches, it is considered a criminal offense.
What is a False Statement?
A false statement can include a false or fraudulent statement, a significant omission of fact, material representation or using a false or fraudulent document. In order for a person to be convicted of the crime, they would have to be proven to have knowingly and willfully made the statement or presented the fraudulent material. There must be a clear intent of deceiving law enforcement or a government agent. In addition, the false statement doesn’t necessarily have to be made under oath in court.
Certain things would have to be proven to convict a defendant of making false statements. They include the following:
• The individual made a statement
• The statement the person made was false
• The statement is material
• The individual knowingly and willingly made the false statement
• The false statement was made to law enforcement or a government agency
False Statements and the US Code
As per the US Code in question, a person can be charged and subsequently convicted of a federal criminal offense of making false statements if any of the following is in place:
• Falsifying or concealing up a scheme, device, material fact or trick
• Making false, fraudulent or fictitious statements or representations
• Making or using false documents or writings while knowing they are false, fraudulent or fictitious
Generally speaking, the crime of false statements is considered to be what is known as a process offense due to it being an interference with the justice system’s procedures. Sometimes, a defendant will not be convicted of the crime but can ultimately be convicted of lying about the conduct.
In other cases, if a person makes a false statement on the federal level, they may be called upon by Congress to a hearing. Federal agencies can also occasionally call an individual in when it’s believed that false statements have been made, such as if there is a report of a terrorist plot.
What are the Penalties for Making False Statements?
The penalties for making false statements, as per 18 US Code Section 1001 includes a maximum prison sentence of five years. At the same time, if the false statement is linked to certain sex offenses, human trafficking or an act of terrorism, that prison sentence can be raised to a maximum of eight years.
What are the Most Common Defenses for False Statements?
Generally speaking, there are three chief defenses against making false statements. These are the most commonly used in cases involving the crime and include the following:
• The defendant didn’t know that the statement they made was false: The defense attorney can argue that the defendant genuinely did not know the statement was false, which is a valid defense. It can be a situation of poor memory, a misunderstanding or an honest mistake.
• The defendant’s statement was not material: Another common defense the criminal defense attorney can use is that the statement the defendant made was not material. In other words, it may not have been relevant enough to be considered an actual crime. The defense can claim that the individual made a false statement that is completely unrelated to the subject matter of the interview or that it was not made to law enforcement or a government agent within the jurisdiction of either.
• The defendant was subjected to an illegal interrogation: Finally, the third common defense in a false statements case is that the interrogation that led to the defendant making the statement was an illegal interrogation. The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution protects the right to be silent and making incriminating statements. As a result, if a person is in custody of law enforcement or the government, they have a right to be protected from making such statements and can instead request an attorney before speaking, if at all.
If you have been arrested and charged with making false statements, you need to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney. It’s the best opportunity you have for getting the charges reduced or dropped.
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