Is lying to lawmen illegal?

September 13, 2012

Can a conversation with law enforcement be hazardous to your freedom? It all depends on an interpretation of your honesty.

Police officials in Atascadero said field officers have been arresting people for lying to them. The admission by Sgt. Gregg Meyer, the department’s public information officer, was contained in a Aug. 30 CalCoastNews article about police searches of people’s belongings in the city’s Sunken Gardens park area.

“We have arrested adults for lying,” Meyer said responding to inquiries about the department’s policies regarding warrant-less searches of backpacks and other belongings of people in the park.

That comment caused Atascadero resident David Broadwater to ask department officials for details about their actions in situations involving alleged lying, and to question the legality of such arrests.

Federal law prohibits lying to U.S. agents, but no such blanket law exists in California penal codes.

“Please inform me as to whether this quote is accurate, that it came from you, and that it’s true that such arrests have occurred,” Broadwater wrote in an Aug. 31 email to police. “Please inform me as to what law or laws were violated or allegedly violated by people lying. Please inform me as to what constituted the lies, i.e., what statements were made that were considered lies.”

After two such requests, Broadwater’s questions were answered in an email from Atascadero Chief of Police Jerel Haley.

“As you know, the written word can occasionally be misconstrued without clarification, and I applaud your efforts to clarify language used in the article… I believe I can adequately articulate what sections of criminal law (Sgt. Meyer)  was referring to when answering the questions posed to him,” Haley said. “If you are specifically asking for a section of California law that makes lying in general illegal, then I know of no such section.”

Haley did, however, cite law sections “that specifically address times when it is illegal for someone to provide false information to a peace officer,” and said the “most commonly applied” is 148.9 of the California Penal Code.

“Any person who falsely represents or identifies himself  or herself as another person or as a fictitious person to any peace officer listed in Section 830.1 or 830.2, or… upon a lawful detention or arrest of the person, either to evade the process of the court, or to evade the proper identification of the person by the investigating officer is guilty of a misdemeanor,” the penal code says.

Other laws deal with use of false names and dates of birth, or concealment of material facts to the DMV or California Highway Patrol officials.

“These and other similar issues are the types of crime to which Sgt. Meyer was referring when he alluded to the fact that our department makes arrests of people for lying,” the chief said.

Broadwater called the  chief’s response “theoretical and hypothetical.” And that Haley failed to respond to his request for a list of the actual alleged lies the officers had used in order to make those arrests.

“I asked for specifics about the actual practices of the APD, not for some brief tutorial about law enforcement potentialities,” Broadwater wrote to Haley. “Recitation of your personal professional history, including arresting people for misidentifying themselves, is irrelevant in the context of this inquiry.”



  1. Nancimeek says:

    Attorney Robert grigger jones it would appear lied to detective Fred plum while being questions about the forged sinatures on our fathers first amendment which our stepmother admitted in court were forged he wasn’t arrested.

    Jones stated in his 2006 affidavit that the document was signed in hawaii and three days later signed again in his office he later stated he doesn’t know how the 1st amendment with the forged signatures came to be in his files. Hmmmmmmmm something stinks

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. smartmouth says:

    I have had the Grover Beach Police Department attempt to set me up for lying in the past (several years ago now). All you have to do is ask them if that is what they are attempting to do and they back down pretty quickly. Shame our officers behave so unprofessionally at times. I wish they were more comfortable knowing that we need them and that their jobs are secure. So often my interaction with the police feels like they are trying to justify their job.

    (-2) 6 Total Votes - 2 up - 4 down
  3. SLORider says:

    You have a right to remain silent. No need to lie.

    (10) 14 Total Votes - 12 up - 2 down
  4. SLOBIRD says:

    Am I missing something here… Why would you lie to an officer to begin with. Don’t we teach out kids eveyday not to lie. It’s not clicking for me!

    (5) 51 Total Votes - 28 up - 23 down
    • Ted Slanders says:


      Let me give you a “clicking example” of having to lie to stay alive. Let’s say you grew up in the Los Angeles area where the gang affiliations run rampant. Your child witnessed a gang member shooting another gang member.

      Now, with the way the gangs rule their turf, and the drastic ramifications that they impose upon anyone that rats on them, like basically killing you, are you going to tell your child to tell the truth to the police and not LIE about them seeing the killing???!

      To be frank, and you can still be SLOBIRD, the loss of a gangbanger that has no respect for life, other than the size of his male anatomy, is subjectively no loss at all. On the other hand, the killing loss of you as a family member for their revengeful retaliation, or your child, is most certainly a bigger loss. Wouldn’t you agree?

      Survival is inate, and the one left standing in this scenario because of a blind eye, stays alive. Your choice.

      (-6) 30 Total Votes - 12 up - 18 down
      • Stunned says:

        So then (Ted) you teach your children to lie (obstruction of justice) then teach them not to steal because they’ll be just like the gang bangers right? Freakish view of reality Ted…bet you knew that though.

        (-2) 24 Total Votes - 11 up - 13 down
        • Ted Slanders says:


          In a situation like I’ve described, yes, they should lie to save their life or having the ramifications of ratting them out be taken out on them or their family members, period!

          It’s always easier for one that hasn’t experienced the scenario that I’ve given, to come up with the namby pamby Dudly-Do-Right notion of always telling the truth, even when one’s life is on the line. That is why your faction in this scenario wouldn’t live long, unless you got out of town post haste subsequent to telling the police of the person that killed the other gang member. What a sap!

          Albeit, if you were in the same situation with a child or family member of your own, and under the same circumstances and fore knowledge, would you probably take a different viewpoint. But, you knew that already, didn’t you? Sure you did.

          Your stealing and gangbanger analogy falls flat upon it’s proverbial face. We’re talking about losing one’s life if they rat upon a LA gangbanger, and the code they follow subsequently, and the act of stealing. Two completey and drastic opposing concepts. Get it?

          My “reality” under this particular situation is to be alive the following day. The “justice” can be taken out between the gang members involved.

          (-6) 28 Total Votes - 11 up - 17 down
      • trebor86 says:

        It might be better to move than to put your children in this kind of danger. My mother did exactly that, raising three children by herself rather than live with family in Los Angeles.

        I know this isn’t the point of your post, but there are always other alternatives. Most people just don’t want to make the sacrifice.

        (9) 13 Total Votes - 11 up - 2 down
    • bobfromsanluis says:

      You need to watch the video at the link that choprzrul posted just prior to your comment; it is very chilling to see a very smart lawyer explain that anything and everything you say to a police officer can and will be used against you if you ever end up in a court of law. What is one of the most chilling factors explained in the video is how you may say only things that are absolutely true, but, even if your conversation is recorded, your testimony to a police officer will not be used in your defense. “But, I haven’t done anything wrong, I haven’t broken any laws”; it doesn’t matter, everything you say will be analyzed, broken down to the simplest of portions of what you said to find anything incriminating. The video at the link is a half hour long; watch it, please if you value your freedom. Even the most honest police officer can unknowingly trip you up and cause you to make an incriminating statement without even trying to. NEVER MAKE A STATEMENT TO A POLICE OFFICER, EVER, if you are a possible suspect. If you are only being interviewed as a witness to a crime, you still need to be very careful, stating on the absolute facts pertaining to what you saw, avoiding any speculation or mention of anything about you.
      I have never had a “bad” interaction with a police officer and have always felt that I am smart enough to handle myself in any situation; after viewing that video I now know that I will never ever make a statement to a police officer, period.

      (4) 24 Total Votes - 14 up - 10 down
      • standup says:

        The best words to say to a cop are nothing at all. Utilize your right to remain silent as those sobs will use everything you say against you. Say nothing and they have nothing. End of story.

        (1) 11 Total Votes - 6 up - 5 down
    • blondehare says:

      watch this and do not forget this advice… Do not talk to Grover Beach Police ever.. I am in particularly… if they think.. or they are friends with someone you have a complaint on..Just do not police.Plead the 5th

      (-6) 8 Total Votes - 1 up - 7 down
  5. choprzrul says:

    The only time that you should make any statements to an officer is NEVER. Do yourself a huge favor and watch this video by a university law professor:

    If it is your lawyer doing the talking, they can’t charge you with lying.

    (17) 35 Total Votes - 26 up - 9 down
    • The Gimlet Eye says:

      Excellent video. This is the exhaustive response.

      (9) 19 Total Votes - 14 up - 5 down

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