Don’t Lie To the Police, Or Your Mom, Ryan Lochte

(Update, 9/8: USA Swimming and the U.S. Olympic Committee have suspended Ryan Lochte for 10 months due to his lying. He is banned from domestic and international competition until June 30, 2017; the other three U.S. swimmers implicated alongside him each received four month suspensions.)

It’s a story that just got stranger and stranger as the clock turned, but now that all the details appear to have come out and the dust has settled, it’s safe to say that Ryan Lochte probably should not have lied; to the police or to his mother. His swimming buddy had to pay almost $11,000 just to leave the country (after being pulled off his flight) and Lochte himself is under investigation. He may very well even be under indictment, if Brazil wants to go through with that process. His interview with Matt Lauer is a masterclass in topic avoidance, and a prime example of someone working in vocabulary they just learned from their lawyer hours before going on television.

It’s something almost all of us were taught just as a matter of principle when we weren’t more than a few years old. But, as a lot of the country is witnessing, you can get yourself in a mountain of legal trouble if you lie to law enforcement, especially when you are visiting another country.

what’s the penalty for lying to police?

Lying, or filing a false report, to police is too great of a risk to take. Many states will seek jail time and/or thousands of dollars in fines for doing this. Penalties differ slightly in each state, so we put together an easy-to-read table. Fine amounts and jail time represent the maximum penalty possible for knowingly making a false statement to a law enforcement officer. It should be noted that we are only covering false incident reports/statements to police, not including a false bomb threat; perjury happens in a court of law and is a subject for another time.

State Penalty Jail Time Fine
Alabama Class A Misdemeanor 1 year jail $6,000
Alaska Class A Misdemeanor 1 year jail $10,000
Arizona Class 1 Misdemeanor 6 months jail $2,500
Arkansas Class A Misdemeanor or Class D Felony 1-6 years jail or prison $2,500-$10,000
California Felony (fixed sentence) Up to 3 years Up to $10,000
Colorado Class 3 or 2 Misdemeanor 3 months-1 year jail $50-$1,000
Connecticut Class A Misdemeanor or Class D Felony 1-5 years jail or prison $2,000-$5,000
Delaware Class A Misdemeanor or Class G Felony 1-2 years jail or prison $2,300
Florida 1st Degree Misdemeanor or 3rd Degree Felony 1-5 years jail or prison $1,000-$5,000
Georgia Misdemeanor 1 year county jail $1,000
Hawaii Misdemeanor 1 year jail $1,000
Idaho Misdemeanor 6 months jail $1,000
Illinois Class A Misdemeanor or Class 4 Felony 1-3 years jail or prison $2,500-$25,000
Indiana Class B or Misdemeanor, or Class D Felony 6 months-3 years jail or prison $1,000-$10,000
Iowa Simple or Serious Misdemeanor 30 days-1 year jail $65-$1,875
Kansas Severity Level 8 or 9 Felony, Class A Misdemeanor 8-13 months probation, or 1 year jail $2,500
Kentucky Class A Misdemeanor 90 days-1 year jail $500
Louisiana Falsely reporting arson, bomb, or child missing 1-20 years jail, with or without hard labor $2,000
Maine Class D Misdemeanor 1 year county jail $2,000
Maryland Misdemeanor 6 months prison $500
Massachusetts N/A 1 year jail $500
Michigan Misdemeanor or Felony 93 days-15 years prison $500-$50,000
Minnesota Misdemeanor or Gross Misdemeanor 90 days-1 year jail $1,000-$3,000
Mississippi Misdemeanor 1 year jail $5,000
Missouri Class B Misdemeanor 6 months jail $500
Montana Misdemeanor 6 months jail $500
Nebraska Class I Misdemeanor 1 year jail $1,000
Nevada Misdemeanor 6 months jail $1,000
New Hampshire Misdemeanor 1 year jail $2,000
New Jersey 4th Degree Felony 18 months prison $10,000
New Mexico Misdemeanor 1 year jail $1,000
New York Class A Misdemeanor, Class E Felony or Class D Felony 1 year jail-7 years prison $1,000-$5,000
North Carolina Class 2 Misdemeanor 60 days of active, intermediate, or community punishment $1,000
North Dakota Class A Misdemeanor 1 year prison $2,000
Ohio 1st Degree Misdemeanor, or 5th-3rd Degree Felony 180 days jail-5 years prison $1,000-$10,000
Oklahoma Misdemeanor 90 days jail $500
Oregon Class A Misdemeanor 1 year incarceration $6,250
Pennsylvania 3rd-1st Degree Misdemeanor 1-5 years incarceration $2,500-$10,000
Rhode Island Misdemeanor 1 year prison $500
South Carolina Misdemeanor or Felony 30 days-5 years prison $500-$1,000
South Dakota Class 1 Misdemeanor 1 year prison $2,000
Tennessee Class D or C Felony 2-15 years prison $5,000-$10,000
Texas Class B Misdemeanor 180 days jail $2,000
Utah Class B Misdemeanor 1 year jail $2,500
Vermont Misdemeanor 6 months-1 year prison $500-$1,000
Virginia Class 1 Misdemeanor 1 year jail $2,500
Washington Gross Misdemeanor 364 days in county jail $5,000
West Virginia Misdemeanor 5 days jail $500
Wisconsin Class H Felony 6 years prison $10,000
Wyoming Misdemeanor or Felony 6 months-5 years prison $750-$5,000
Washington, D.C Misdemeanor 30 days prison $300

States have definitions of false reporting that are equal parts specific, vague or . Many times, the fine and/or jail sentence will vary depending on what was being lied about; if you falsely claim that your bike was stolen, rather than just that you lost it, your penalty probably won’t be very steep. But if you lie about having a gun pointed to your head by a police officer, like our man-child Olympic champion Ryan Lochte, you may be in deeper trouble.

In short, if you give false information related to a misdemeanor crime, you’ll be charged with a misdemeanor; if you give false information related to a felony, you’ll be charged with the same. If you give false information which then leads to someone being injured or worse, your sentence will increase dramatically.

So the lesson here is, don’t lie to the police, ever. Don’t even think about lying to the police. Lies are tough to keep track of; telling the truth means you won’t have to go on TV and apologize for lying while your publicist writes a carefully worded statement trying to absolve you of responsibility. It will be interesting to see whether Brazil presses charges against Ryan Lochte for his crime.

*Featured image from Chan-Fan, via Wiki Commons

B. Clausen

A graduate of the University of Kansas, Brian Clausen is the U.S. news reporter for Dopplr. Before joining the team, he created digital content for large companies.

One comment

  • That was a very well written article. Thank you for all the helpful information and the excellent chart of all the states with their respective penalties attached to it.

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