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Is It Illegal to Lie to the Police?

woman talking to a male police officer after witnessing a crime

Interference with Law Enforcement Laws & Penalties in WI

When a police officer detains or arrests a person to question them about a reported crime, that person has legal obligations to the officer. It doesn’t matter whether the person is a suspect or witness, or someone with potentially useful information regarding a crime, as everyone has a legal duty to comply with police officers’ commands in most cases.

It can be uncomfortable if the police are questioning you about a loved one’s alleged criminal conduct, which is why it is strongly advised that you retain an attorney before speaking to the police. Remember, your words may be used against you in court. Many detainees and arrestees make the unfortunate mistake of falsifying their statements to the police in addition to making statements absent a lawyer, which could result in criminal penalties.

Interfering with law enforcement can put you on their bad side. Don’t let that happen to you.

According to Wisconsin Statutes and Annotations Chapter 946, whoever, without reasonable excuse, refuses or fails, upon command, to aid any person known by the person to be a police officer is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by $500 fines and/or 30 days in jail. This law does not apply if the police officer was not authorized to command assistance from you.

If you refused aid to a police officer under all of the following circumstances, you may suffer a Class H felony charge that carries $10,000 fines and/or 6 years in prison:

  • You gave false information or placed physical evidence with intent to mislead an officer
  • At a criminal trial, the trier of fact considers the false information or physical evidence.
  • The trial results in the conviction of an innocent person.

Speaking with police officers can be frightening and intimidating under any circumstances. Their attitudes, behaviors and mannerisms may cause you to question whether they are suspecting you of a crime or simply asking for help getting information about a reported crime. Regardless of their agendas, lying to the police is illegal.

You may feel pressured by the police to share information that you simply don’t have. By no means does this imply that you should lie to them. If you don’t have the answers to their questions, be honest and tell them just that. If the police do not accept your answer, you can respectfully say that you would like to exercise your right to an attorney before answering any further questions.

There are situations in which people unknowingly and unintentionally give false statements to the police. For example, if a gas station was robbed and you were pumping your gas at the time of the offense, the police may question you. Even if you didn’t necessarily witness the crime occurring, being present at the crime scene is enough for the police to render interest in you. If they ask you what the suspect was wearing and you say “I think the suspect was wearing a green hoodie and black jeans,” but the police later discover that the suspect wore all black clothes, you likely wouldn’t get in legal trouble.

You may get in trouble, however, if the police learned that you knew the suspect. The police might assume that you personally knew the suspect and their agenda to commit a robbery, even if you simply went to high school with the suspect and lost touch afterward. As a result, they may bring you to the station for further questioning. When and if this happens, retain a criminal defense lawyer right away.

Available 24/7 to Provide Legal Advice

Our Milwaukee criminal defense attorney understands that most people are unfamiliar with police investigations and criminal proceedings. That is a good thing, as it indicates they haven’t been suspected of or affiliated with criminal activity. However, such unfamiliarity can quickly turn into a bad situation if a person lies to the police or tampers with physical evidence.

Accused of lying to the police? Put 20+ years of experience on your side. Contact us at (414) 882-8382 to learn more!