Where is lying to police legal?
November 8, 2019 9:51 AM   Subscribe

In which countries, if any, is lying to police unpunished?

Based on this (very interesting!) little twitter conversation about breaking out of prison in Iceland / Germany and Mexico, I was thinking about a similar question:

In which countries is it considered normal to lie to the police and lying, when discovered, goes unpunished?

In the UK, there's a specific offence of "perverting the course of justice" which often results in a longer sentence than the original offence would have done. I used to live in Italy, and had the impression from friends that lying to the police was considered somehow "legal" there, but I can't find any evidence of this. Does anyone know of any examples where either lying to the police is fine (because there's no law), or a specifically protected form of speech?
posted by chappell, ambrose to Law & Government (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Lying to federal agents is against the law in the United States, but at the state level, there are at least some states where a lie is not in and of itself a criminal act. It can potentially be a part of, e.g., an obstruction of justice charge, but would not necessarily be a crime at all. Depends on the state.
posted by skewed at 10:56 AM on November 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

Police generally are governed by state or city statutes, and whenever they ask questions in an attempt to gain information about an investigation they have the right to use your truths or lies to help prosecute the crime or whatever they are investigating. If you exert your fifth amendment right to not speak then you are not committing any punishable crime but lying is punishable everywhere
If there's a cop, theres a code.
posted by The_imp_inimpossible at 4:52 AM on November 10, 2019

Oddly it's very legal to lie to the police in Canada, although presenting inaccurate documents or signing an inaccurate statement could get you in trouble. There's a offence for obstruction of justice in the Criminal Code of Canada, but the offence requires that you did something prohibited or failed to do something you were obliged to do under the law (such as obey a lawful order to surrender or stop getting in the way of the police arresting someone else, etc). Since you have the absolute right not to incriminate yourself there's really no way to make lying about your guilt an offence.

Scenario 1: Police show up with a search warrant at your office and you try to block access physically = obstruction of justice

Scenario 2: Police show up with a search warrant at your office and ask where the server room is and you lie (say you don't know or say it's on the 2nd floor when it's on the 10th) = no charges.

Exception: There is a distinct charge for public mischief, which is when you cause the police to enter into an investigation on false pretenses, e.g. you say you got mugged when you were in fact just drunk and fell on your face, that lie can be charged.

Obstruction of Justice: Criminal Law Notebook entry

Public mischief: Criminal Law Notebook entry
posted by BlueSock at 6:14 PM on July 19, 2020

« Older National Geographic was wrong!!   |   Best app for merging family member calendars? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.