You get into an argument with your roommate, and he decides to move out. After he leaves, you are still angry, so you call the police and make up a story about your roommate stealing your furniture. Can you go to jail for lying to the police?
At a bar with your friends, you get into a shouting match, and then one of your friends punches you. The cops are called, but you don’t want your friend to get in trouble, so you lie to them and tell them no punches were thrown. Is this a crime?
You are an Olympic athlete and you decide to go to a party in Rio with some of your teammates. You might stay out past team-mandated curfew and might cause damage to a local business. Afraid that you might be reprimanded by your coaches and country, you may say that you were running late because you were robbed. What could happen to you?
Did Ryan Lochte and His Olympic Teammates Commit a Crime?
U.S. swimmer and 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte and several other U.S. swimmers could be facing criminal charges in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for allegedly lying to authorities.
It is alleged that Lochte and teammates Jack Conger and Gunnar Bentz lied when they said they were held up at gunpoint by robbers disguised at Brazilian police, according to authorities in Brazil. Using evidence including surveillance footage and witness testimony, officials pieced together a different story than the account initially given by the American swimmers.1
The athletes reportedly stopped at a gas station on the way home from a party and caused damage to a bathroom. The men tried to leave, but the business owner stopped them. After an argument, Lochte and his teammates offered the gas station owner money to pay for the damages, and they proceeded to leave.
When authorities suspected the men were lying – including Lochte telling the story on national television – judges ordered the athletes to stay in Brazil and surrender their passports. Two of the swimmers were arrested while boarding a plane, but Lochte had already left the country.
In Brazil, filing a false police report is a crime punishable by up to six months in custody or a fine.2
Filing a False Report of a Crime (PC 148.5)
The law in California is very similar to the crime of filing a false report of a crime in Brazil. Under California Penal Code Section 148.5, you are guilty of a crime if you knowingly make a false report to authorities that a misdemeanor or a felony has been committed.
In order to convict you of this crime, the prosecution must prove that:
- You made a false report of a crime
- You knew the report was false, and
- You knew you were reporting this crime to a police officer or other official who takes reports of crimes in a professional capacity
If you are found guilty of this crime in California, you face the same punishment that Lochte faces in Brazil: six months in custody and fines of up to $1,000.
Should Lochte Be Sentenced to Jail?
If the reports from Brazilian officials that Lochte lied about being robbed at gunpoint are true, the six-time Olympic gold medalist could be held in custody for up to six months. Do you think Lochte and his teammates deserve to be punished for their actions? Do you think spending six months in jail is too harsh for this crime? Did you believe Lochte’s story about being held up at gunpoint?
Please share your thoughts on this subject in the comments section below.
1. [http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/more-sports/ryan-lochte-teammates-lied-robbery-cover-brawl-article-1.2756265 ]↩
2. [http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/rio-2016/2016/08/17/ryan-lochte-jimmy-feigen-robbery-judge-orders-not-to-leave-brazil/88894372/ ]↩