A false report is an intentionally untrue statement about something that occurred or about one or more people to authorities like officers of the peace, social workers, or others with recognized authority. Though this varies by region, generating a false report is often a misdemeanor. Criminal charges can certainly occur if the reporter’s deceit is discovered. Some people are also civilly liable if they make a false report that causes mental distress or actionable damage to others.
Legal definitions of the term "false" should be understood. Saying something that is untrue or false can just be an accident. For instance, misidentifying someone as the driver in a moving violation is unfortunate, but it’s not a willful attempt at misrepresentation. Even expressing something believed true does not qualify as the more damaging definition of false. Reporting a burglar’s presence in the home, only to discover it was the neighbor’s Labrador, is simply a mistake.
The more serious legal meaning of a false report is tied to intention. Legal falsity in reporting may mean purposeful, malicious attempts to persuade authorities of something that is untrue. It speaks to a person’s willingness to subvert the law on his own behalf or to maliciously injure someone else.
Given slight differences in jurisdictions, the definition of a false report, and to whom it might be made, can vary. Generally, a prosecutor makes a case by first proving the accused made the report. It must also be established that the defendant deliberately presented information he knew to be false. Further, the prosecutor has to show evidence that the defendant’s report was made to some type of authority.
Since many people aren’t prosecuted, the idea of making a false report isn’t always treated with due gravity. If a criminal charge doesn’t occur, a civil trial can still follow, and it should not be underestimated. Civil proceedings are slightly more relaxed, and not all jurors have to be persuaded, which may give advantage to the person suing for damages.
If a false report creates financial damage for others, any person making it might pay for it for a long time. A report that results in the criminal accusation of someone else, for example, could cost someone months of pay, an occupation, or ownership of a home. It might take years to restore a person's reputation. These damages add up quickly, and they could financially destroy the person who made the false report.