Grundy County police frequently charge people they think are lying to them with false report. Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-16-502(a)(2), (b)(1) makes it a Class D felony to:
Make a report or statement in response to a legitimate inquiry by a law enforcement officer concerning a material fact about an offense or incident within the officer’s concern, knowing that the report or statement is false and with the intent to obstruct or hinder the officer from:
(A) Preventing the offense or incident from occurring or continuing to occur; or
(B) Apprehending or locating another person suspected of committing an offense.
A person found guilty of the above offense may be sentenced to two to twelve years in prison, based upon range, and fined up to $5,000.
If you’ve been charged with false report, you should definitely talk with a lawyer. In order to convict you of false report, the State has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew the statement was false.
For example, State v. Mellot, a defendant was in her living room when her boyfriend, a fugitive, ran back into her house to avoid the police. After the police came into the house in search of the boyfriend, an officer asked the defendant, “where is he,” to which the defendant responded, “I don’t know.” Sadly, a jury convicted the defendant of making a false report to a police officer and imposed a $2,500 fine. However, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction because of insufficient evidence. The appellate court reasoned that the State did not prove “I don’t know,” was false as to the specific question, “where is he,” and stated that “the conviction cannot rest on speculation and the supposition that the officer’s question, ‘where is he,’ really means ‘which way did he go when he ran back inside?'” Accordingly, the court of criminal appeals reversed the defendant’s conviction and dismissed the indictment.
Of course, not every case is the same. False reports are especially fact specific, and you should always seek the help of a competent attorney.
State v. Mellott, No. E2012-00278-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 19, 2013)