Calling 911 and Filing a False ReportBy Daniel Pelrman
Sep. 30, 2014 3:28p
What some people consider worthy of a 911 emergency call can sometimes seem just a little over the top. Consider the infamous case of an Arizona couple who called 911 when their fast food order arrived missing the hashbrowns. The incident ultimately resulted in assault and disorderly conduct charges for the overwrought duo.
In California, an incident like this one would fall under Penal Code section 148.5. This section makes it illegal to knowingly make a false report of a crime (misdemeanor or felony) to a peace officer, to someone employed to accept crime reports (i.e., a 911 operator), or to a prosecutor. This crime is prosecuted as a misdemeanor and requires only that the person making the false report knows the report is untrue and knows that the person to whom he or she is giving the report is engaged in an official capacity to accept such reports (such as a police officer, a 911 operator, or a prosecutor). This section also makes it a misdemeanor to give a false report to a grand jury.
Some examples of false reports that are illegal under this section include:
Reporting a crime has occurred when, in fact, one has not;
Giving false details about a criminal incident;
Reporting theft or damage that is untrue, and
The knowing and intentional false report of an emergency, fire or crime.
Some extreme cases result in the court imposing the maximum sentence allowed. A Los Angeles county woman accused of making more than 400 non-emergency reports, including 220 requests for paramedic assistance 911 calls, was convicted on 12 counts of annoying or harassing 911 calls and 13 counts of making a false emergency report. She was sentenced to three years probation, 180 days in jail, and mandatory psychological counseling, according to the city attorney's office.
She could have been faced with other more serious charges, perjury for example, in addition to this misdemeanor charge.
Daniel R. Perlman, Esq.
Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman