Under New York Law, it is a crime to file a baseless police report about a crime that hasn’t happened. This charge is called Falsely Reporting an Incident. Under New York Law, there are three different degrees of Falsely Reporting an Incident Charges. Specifically, they are:

Falsely Reporting an Incident in the First Degree is the most serious of these three charges. However, all three can result in a criminal record and jail time. The difference between these New York Falsely Reporting Incident charges is explained below.

Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Third Degree

New York False Reporting an Incident in the Third Degree charge is codified in New York Penal Law Section 240.50. Under New York Penal Law Section 240.50, a person is guilty of Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Third Degree when knowing the information reported, conveyed or circulated to be false or baseless, he or she:

  1. Initiates or circulates a false report or warning of an alleged occurrence or impending occurrence of a crime, catastrophe or emergency; OR
  2. Reports, by word or action an alleged or impending occurrence of a catastrophe or emergency which did not in fact occur or does not in fact exist; OR
  3. Gratuitously reports to a law enforcement officer or agency:
    1. The alleged occurrence of an offense or incident which did not in fact occur; OR
    2. An allegedly impending occurrence of an offense or incident which in fact is not about to occur; OR
    3. False information relating to an actual offense or incident or to the alleged implication of some person therein.
  4. Reports, by word or action, an alleged occurrence or condition of child abuse or maltreatment or abuse or neglect of a vulnerable person which did not in fact occur or exist.

Importantly, this charge does not require that a special type of emergency be reported, or that the false report causes a harm to anyone. Just knowingly filing a false report is sufficient for a prosecution.

Sentencing and Penalties for Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Third Degree

New York Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Third Degree is a Class “A” Misdemeanor. As such, this charge is punishable by:

  • Up to 1 year in jail;
  • Probation of either 2 or 3 years;
  • Conditional discharge (with the sentencing court imposing the conditions such as community service or no new arrests);
  • Unconditional discharge (no conditions imposed by the sentencing court);
  • Time served (even if it is minimal).

Additionally, the Court may order restitution for funds expended by Government Agencies in responding to a purported emergency.

Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Second Degree

New York Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Second Degree is codified in Section 240.55 of the Penal Law. Under Penal Law Section 240.55, a person is guilty of Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Second Degree when, knowing the information reported, conveyed or circulated to be false or baseless, s/he:

  1. Initiates or circulates a false report or warning of an alleged occurrence or impending occurrence of a fire, explosion, or the release of a hazardous substance under circumstances in which it is not unlikely that public alarm or inconvenience will result; OR
  2. Reports, by word or action, an alleged occurrence or impending occurrence of a fire, explosion, or the release of a hazardous substance which did not in fact occur or does not in fact exist; OR
  3. Knowing the information reported, conveyed or circulated to be false or baseless and under circumstances in which it is likely public alarm or inconvenience will result, he or she initiates or circulates a report or warning of an alleged occurrence or an impending occurrence of a fire, an explosion, or the release of a hazardous substance upon any private premises.

This charge is different from New York Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Third Degree because it requires additional aggravating elements. Specifically, one of the following is required to charge someone with this False Reporting charge:

  1. False report is likely to cause public alarm or inconvenience;
  2. False report involves alleged occurrence of a fire, explosion or hazardous substance;
  3. Circulation of a baseless report or warning about a fire, explosion or release of a hazardous substance on private premises.

Sentencing and Penalties for Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Second Degree

Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Second Degree is a Class “E” Non-violent Felony. As such, this charge is punishable by:

  • Indeterminate sentence up to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison;
  • Determinate sentence of 1 year,
  • Probation;
  • Split sentence (up to 6 months jail, rest on probation);
  • Conditional Discharge (with conditions such as no new arrests imposed by the Courts);
  • Unconditional Discharge (no conditions imposed by the sentencing court).

Furthermore, you may be required to pay restitution for funds the government agencies spent on responding to the false emergency.

Falsely Reporting an Incident in the First Degree

The most serious of the false reporting charges is Falsely Reporting an Incident in the First Degree. This charge is codified in New York Penal Law Section 240.60. Under New York Penal Law Section 240.60, a person is guilty of Falsely Reporting an Incident in the First Degree when s/he:

  1. Commits the crime of Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Second Degree and has a prior conviction for that crime; OR
  2. Commits the crime of Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Second or Third Degree AND an employee of any official or quasi-official agency, a volunteer firefighter, or a volunteer ambulance worker suffers serious physical injury or is killed in the performance of his or her official duties in traveling to or working at or returning to base facility from the location identified in such report; OR
  3. Commits the crime of Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Second or Third Degree AND another person suffers serious physical injury or is killed as a result of any vehicular or other accident involving any emergency vehicle which is responding to, operating at, or returning from the location identified in such report; OR
  4. Knowing the information reported, conveyed or circulated to be false or baseless and under circumstances in which it is likely public alarm or inconvenience will result, s/he circulates a report or warning of an alleged occurrence or an impending occurrence of a fire, an explosion, or the release of a hazardous substance upon school grounds;; OR
  5. Knowing the information reported to be false or baseless and under circumstances in which it is likely public alarm or inconvenience will result, s/he initiates or circulates a report or warning of an alleged occurrence or impending occurrence of a fire, explosion or the release of a hazardous substance in or upon a sports stadium or arena, mass transportation facility, enclosed shopping mall, any public building or any public place.

What is an Emergency Vehicle?

An emergency vehicle is defined as any vehicle operated by any employee or member of any official or quasi-official agency having the function of dealing with emergencies involving danger to life or property and includes:

  • An emergency vehicle which is operated by a volunteer firefighter with a fire department,
  • Fire company, OR
  • Any unit thereof as defined in the volunteer firefighters` benefit law; OR
  • By a volunteer ambulance worker with a volunteer ambulance corporation, or any unit thereof as defined in the volunteer ambulance workers` benefit law.

Sentencing and Penalties for Falsely Reporting an Incident in the First Degree

Falsely Reporting an Incident in the First Degree is a Class “D” Non-violent felony. As such, this charge is punishable by:

  • An indeterminate sentence up to 1 1/3 to 4 years;
  • A determinate sentence up to 1 year;
  • A split sentence (up to 6 months jail, rest of the time on probation);
  • Probation, in the event there are mitigating circumstances.

Additionally, restitution may be ordered for funds expended by government agencies in responding to a purported emergency.

What Are Some Defenses to Falsely Reporting an Incident?

Each case is unique and requires many hours to develop a successful defense strategy. However, these are some frequently used defenses to Falsely Reporting an Incident charges.

1. Constitutionally Protected Speech

An individual cannot be prosecuted for Falsely Reporting an incident, if the speech is entitled to Constitutional protections. If that is the case, it does not subject the Defendant to criminal liability for engaging in constitutionally protected speech. 

2. Giving False Information About an Actual Incident

Another defense to Falsely Reporting an Incident is that the information given was about an actual incident, but it was false or inaccurate. Although this may subject you to other criminal charges such as filing a false police report, or obstruction of governmental administration, you may have a viable defense to the charge of Falsely Reporting an Incident.

Contact Top Rated New York Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

If you or your loved one has been charged with Falsely Reporting an Incident, you need experienced criminal counsel. Selecting the right criminal counsel is probably the single most important thing you can do for your case. Read our client testimonials and schedule your initial consultation today.