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VC 31 Give False Information to Peace Officer or Police: Law, Punishment & Defense of CA Vehicle Code Section 31

According to California Vehicle Code 31, “No person shall give, either orally or in writing, information to a peace officer while in the performance of his or her duties… when such person knows that the information is false (VC 31 Abbrev.).

In essence, providing false information to a law enforcement officer is a crime under various California codes sections, including VC 31 [Give False Information to a Peace Officer], VC 20 [Provide False Information to CHP Officer], PC 148(a) [Delaying a Peace Officer’s Investigation], PC 148.5 [Filing a False Police Report], and more.

Example: Maria is pulled over by officer Dan. Maria is on probation for DUI and she has been drinking alcohol when officer Dan pulls her over. To avoid a violation of probation, Maria gives officer Dan a false name and Maria claims that she forgot her license at home. Result: Maria may be charged with any of the following crimes:

VC 31 [Give False Information to a Peace Officer],

VC 12951 [Driving Without a License in Possession],

PC 148(a) [Delaying an Officer’s Investigation], and

PC 148.9 [Give False Identification to a Peace Officer].

To prove the defendant is guilty of VC 31, the district attorney must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant 1) gave false information to a peace officer while in the performance of the officer’s duties, and 2) the defendant knew the information was false when it was provided.

Peace Officer Defined: Per VC 31, a “Peace Officer” is any sworn officer, including a sheriff’s department officer, CHP officer, FBI agent, ATF agent, probation officer, transportation officer, and more.

Note: When a person provided false information to a CHP officer, the district attorney will usually charge the more specific crime found at VC 20 [Provide False Information to a CHP Officer or DMV employee].

VC 31 Punishment

Jail Sentence: VC 31 is classified as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of VC 31, the defendant could face up to six months in the county jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is a period of supervision, as opposed to a jail sentence. A probation sentence is possible after a vehicle code 31 conviction, but a probation sentence is never guaranteed.

Note: Whether a defendant is granted a probation sentence after a conviction for giving false information to a police officer depends on the facts and circumstances of the case, including the defendant’s criminal history, the level of sophistication of the defendant’s deception, the harm caused to a third person (if any), the amount of delay in the officer investigation, and more.

Work Release: Work release is a type of manual labor that is typically ordered as an alternative to a jail sentence in VC 31 cases. For more information, see Work Release.

Additional Punishment: In addition to a jail or probation sentence, a conviction for VC 31 can lead to severe negative consequences for non-US citizens (immigration consequences), military service personnel, and licensed professionals (i.e., loss of a professional license). For more information, see Immigration Consequences for Criminal Conduct.

Note: Giving false information to a peace officer is a crime involving moral turpitude, or CIMT. Crimes involving moral turpitude, including VC 31 crimes, carry additional direct and indirect negative consequences related to future court testimony, reputation, immigration consequences, and more. For more information, see Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude.

VC 31 Defense

Common defense incorporated by criminal defense attorneys whose clients are facing VC 31 charges include statute of limitations violation (1 year in VC 31 cases), mistake of fact as to the truth of the information given to the peace officer, failure to Mirandize the defendant after the defendant is placed in police custody and questioned by police, insufficient evidence to prove the defendant provided false information, and more.

Note: VC 31 only applies to cases where the peace officer is working in his or her capacity as such at the time the false information is provided.

Truth of Information: Of course, if the information provided to the peace officer is true, then the VC 31 criminal charges should be dismissed. Also, if the information provided to the peace officer is false, but the defendant truly believed the information given to the peace officer was true at the time it was provided, then the defendant’s criminal charges should be dismissed.

Related offenses may require a different approach to defense. For example, provided a forged license to an officer may be charged under both VC 31 [Give False Information to a Peace Officer], and PC 470(b) [Possession of a Forged Driver’s License]. Obviously, those two crimes will require different proof by the district attorney to be criminally charged, and those two crimes will require a different defense by the criminal defense attorney as well.

Diversion Option: A diversion is a circumvention of criminal prosecution. In other words, a criminal defendant who is charged with a crime might be able to avoid criminal prosecution by adhering to certain probation-like conditions. If the defendant complies with these “diversion conditions” then his or her criminal prosecution will be “diverted” or avoided. VC 31 criminal charges are eligible for diversion, but a diversion program is not guaranteed in any case. For more information, see Judicial Diversion.

Post-Conviction Relief: After a conviction for VC 31, the defendant may have several post-conviction options depending on the circumstances, including terminate probation early (PC 1203.3), withdraw a guilty or “no contest” plea (PC 1018), appeal the misdemeanor conviction, expunge the misdemeanor conviction (PC 1203.4), and more.

If you or someone you love is charged with giving false information to a peace officer, or California vehicle code 31 VC, contact our Southern CA criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation.

Our team of highly qualified and successful criminal defense attorneys represent all defendants charged with any misdemeanor or felony crime in both San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, including the cities and courts of Beaumont, Moreno Valley, Chino, Ontario, Victorville, Redlands, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Rialto, Hesperia, and more. Call today!


Related Topics

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 VC 31 Give False Information to Peace Officer


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