I. VC 31: Providing False Information to Police Officers
Legal Definition: “No person shall give, either orally or in writing, information to a peace officer while in the performance of his duties under the provisions of this code when such person knows that the information is false.”
To be found guilty under VC 31 the prosecution must prove:
1. You gave false information to a police officer in the regular performance of their duties;
2. You knew the information you were providing was false
3. You knew that you were giving false information to a police officer.
II. What does this mean?
Police are allowed to lie to citizens, but it is a crime for citizens to lie to police. If you ask a police officer if they are with the police, they are not required to say “yes”, despite common misconceptions that exist. The same is not true for us, as we can be charged with a misdemeanor charge under this section. You can violate this section in several different ways. For example, if you are pulled over for a traffic violation, you can be charged with a violation of VC 31 if you provide the Officer a fake name, a fake driver’s license or someone else’s not your own, a fake or forged registration, or to answer any question that you know to be false.
People who get pulled over by police get scared, and they sometimes react poorly. It happens to most people, even ones who are not actively breaking the law. However, if you’re trying to avoid getting in trouble by lying to the police, you could take a potentially simple traffic ticket into an arrest. This charge happens often too with people who lack United States citizenship. The idea is that people do not want to get the State put on notice that they are living in the United States illegally. However, this can come back to bite a person if they do later become a citizen because they will have a number of AKAs that could lead to future criminal prosecution.
A charge under VC 31 is a misdemeanor offense. If you are convicted of this charge you could be sentenced up to six months in County Jail. You would be required to serve at least 50% of that time in custody. You could also be subject to a fine up to $1,000 for this charge. You can also be facing additional charges if it is found that the reason you were providing false information was for the purposes of evading police.
This is not a strike offense under the California Three Strikes law, and it is not a Sex Offense under PC 290. You could also face a suspension or loss of your Professional License if convicted, and if you are not a legal resident, you would face Deportation in Immigration Court since the offense is deportable, in that it is a crime lying or deceit.
IV. Common Defenses
For you to be found guilty of this crime, it has to be shown that you were intentionally providing false information to police. Obviously, if an officer asks for your name, and you provide a different name, it would be a hard defense to show that you somehow forgot your name. However, if you are extremely nervous, and you did not knowingly make a false statement to the police, then that could protect you as a possible defense of these charges. You must be found to be knowingly providing information that is false to a police officer in order to prove your guilt here. Failing to do so by the prosecution, would lead to a dismissal of your case as there would be insufficient evidence to prove you guilty of this crime.
In addition, if you do not know the person who is speaking to you is a police officer, such as an off-duty officer, then providing false information would not be a crime. Although that officer could be in the performance of their duties, possibly working undercover or in plainclothes, if you don’t know they are an officer, and they don’t reveal themselves as such, then you cannot be found guilty of this charge.
V. Call Today
A simple attempt to mislead a police officer can land you in jail for up to six months. There are obviously much more serious offenses that exist in the world that you can be charged with, but lying to police, something that seems harmless at first, can end up costing you your crime-free background. It also hurts to have a crime of deceit to police authority on your record as well for future job prospects. Our Ontario VC 31 attorney has successfully defended hundreds of people charged with lying to police officers under VC 31. Call your local Ontario Criminal Defense Attorney today at the Inland Empire Defense 909-939-7126. Located in Ontario.