False reports to police and state agencies seldom investigated due to budgetary concerns
Updated: Apr 26
This is the U.S.A, you can say what you want, right?
Well, often that's true under freedom of speech, but an individual filing a false police report resulting in damage to an individual's reputation is not only breaking the law law but could also be held accountable in court as well. Obviously, someone who files a police report that contains information that isn't true hasn't necessarily filed a false police report. A person may identify the hit-and-run car as blue when it was black, or say the driver was a young woman when in fact it was a mature woman. Everybody makes errors in eye-witness testimony, and nobody can or should fault them for it.
Making a false police report is a different thing altogether. It involves intentionally feeding the police incorrect information, usually for one of two purposes: to shield themselves from police scrutiny for a crime they committed, or to implicate an innocent person for a crime as personal revenge. Both are against the law.
A person making an intentionally false police report can be charged criminally.
The types of false information given may include: =Reporting a crime that did not occur -Using a false name -Giving false information about the crime =Falsely reporting some type of theft or damage -Deliberately exaggerating the value of items stolen
The person making an intentionally false police report can be charged criminally. Depending on the jurisdiction and the facts of the situation, it can be a misdemeanor or a felony.
For example, in Arkansas, it is a misdemeanor to make a false report of a committed crime and punishable by fines and jail time if the alleged crime would be considered a misdemeanor. However, someone who knowingly files a false report is guilty of a Class D felony if the alleged criminal wrongdoing is a capital offense, Class Y felony, Class A felony, or Class B felony.
But the law is rarely utilized on the felony level, especially in matters of domestic and/or sexual abuse because of the ability of anyone to make anonymous claims about other individuals to state agencies which protect the reporting person's identity.
A spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Human Services recently told Today in Fort Smith that seven of ten calls to their agency fall under the category of "false police reports" that are committed either as an act of revenge against an ex-spouse or partner. or intended to harm someone's reputation.
That means that 70% of the calls DHS is mandated to investigate turn out to be false and were made for retaliatory purposes. But the same spokesman said virtually none of those individuals making the false police reports are investigated, much less punished for their misdeeds.
"We just don't have the investigative funds necessary to follow up and prosecute those masking false reports," said the spokesperson. "Even if we did many of the tips are anonymous so we wouldn't know who to prosecute in the first place."
For every false allegation causing the DHS investigators to waste time, there is the potential for real crimes involving real child and/or elderly abuse to "fall through the cracks".
If the DHS investigates a claim and finds the report to be false, they will issue a letter clearing the falsely accused person of the allegations, but it often takes weeks for that letter to be delivered to the offended party.
By then, a person's reputation can take a serious hit. If someone files a false police report about you, you may be able to sue for monetary damages for defamation of character.
All you have to do is show the report was false, since truth is a complete defense. You also have to show that the person knew it was false when it was made and/or it was made for retaliatory purposes.
Finally, you have to show that the false police report about you was "injurious." Remember that defamation law focuses on injuries to reputation. That means you have to prove that your reputation was hurt by the statement.
Across Arkansas, local and county officials often have more discretionary power to go after serial "false agents" but decline to do so based on the same budgetary concerns involved in investigating such matters. Even then, prosecution has to be green-lighted by local or county prosecutors.
Members of the Arkansas House of Representatives state judicial committee were contacted during the recent session in an attempt to encourage funding for all agencies to investigate false claims or to make changes to the state judicial code making the laws where the accused get an opportunity to know the identity of anyone making false claims if the crime rises to the level of a felony.
No action was taken by either the house or the Senate during the 2023 session.