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Lawmakers advance bill that would criminalize lying to police

By Sam Eifling / Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:49 p.m. HST, Feb 06, 2014

Lying to police who are investigating a crime would become at least a misdemeanor under a bill state lawmakers are advancing.

Honolulu police officers told members of the House Public Safety Committee on Thursday that they support the measure because witnesses who mislead police can hamper investigations and can get innocent people thrown in jail.

"When you take investigations in a direction based on false statements, it costs us resources," Capt. Jason Kawabata said. "It's unfair to the victims of crimes."

Filing a false police report is already a misdemeanor in Hawaii. The bill, HB1804, which advanced out of committee, would make unsworn false testimony to police the same level of offense as the crime police are investigating, a misdemeanor at minimum.

Lt. Alexander Garcia told lawmakers the bill was based on a federal law. He said he was unaware of similar measures in other states.

The bill does not require police to tell witnesses about penalties or legal options when they talk to police.

"A witness isn't read their rights," Garcia said in an interview. "I always tell them, when I'm running an investigation, 'Tell me the truth or don't tell me anything.'"

He said his support is motivated by cases he has worked in which accusers make up stories to get someone arrested.

"This has happened not only in domestic cases but other personal-type vendettas," he said.

Richard Sing, president of the Hawaii Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said he's concerned the bill is too broad and the penalty part of it is unfair and probably unworkable.

For example, he said if your brother is being investigated for murder and you tell the police you don't know where your brother is when you really do, you would have committed an offense that would be treated as seriously as murder.

Or in a scenario where you're pulled over for speeding and an officer asks whether you know how fast you were going. If you say you don't when you actually do, then you've committed a misdemeanor and you could go to jail for a year, Sing said.

"You want to encourage people to be honest to the police, but I think the bill is overbroad as written and the penalty provision is very problematic," Sing said.

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st1d wrote:
if lying to the police is made a criminal offense, police lying to the public, whether it be to the suspect, victim or witness, should also be made a criminal offense.

as a police officer, you just have to expect people will lie to you: have you been drinking tonight? no. do you know why i stopped you? no. do you have a weapon? no. are there drugs in there? no.

it should be taken for granted that some people will lie to the police.

is it right, no. but should it be made criminal, no. lying in court or under oath is already a crime, perjury. have all statements made under oath to tell the truth and notarized if you want to criminalize lying to the police.

on February 6,2014 | 09:23PM
localguy wrote:
Once again our totally, utterly, clueless bureaucrats haven't got a clue what to do. So here is what a person will do when questioned by police, asking these questions: 1. Am I required by state or federal law to answer your questions? 2. If I answer them could my answers be used against me in a court of law? 3. I'm sorry officer, I'm invoking my 5th amendment rights. I am requesting an attorney. I cannot answer your questions. Funny how this new law does not apply to our elected bureaucrats who will continue to lie, cheat, and steal every day they are in office, their standard.
on February 6,2014 | 09:28PM
awahana wrote:
What about officers who are using their phones while driving?
Or excessive speed down the highway without lights or sirens?
Or construction sites when they are on extra duty, and actually cause accidents do to their lack of attention, or even wrong directions.
on February 6,2014 | 11:44PM
bekwell wrote:
Right on.
on February 7,2014 | 03:29AM
Wage Earner wrote:
on duty officers are exempt from the statewide traffic code.... as are fire fighters and ems.
on February 7,2014 | 04:38AM
Poplm wrote:
One more attack on our constitutional rights. People wake up!
on February 7,2014 | 01:51AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Lying to the cops is constitutionally protected?
on February 7,2014 | 05:24AM
Slow wrote:
I want my Constitutionally guaranteed BAZOOKA! People go back to sleep!!
on February 7,2014 | 09:16AM
inverse wrote:
How about lawmakers make it a crime for government officials to lie to the public? The rail is a $10 billion lie and those that constantly lie about the true worth and consequence of the train on Oahu should be held accountable as well. And on a similar topic how is it possible for these same lawmakers to even forward the proposal to allow DHHL to function in secrecy almost to the level of the NSA?
on February 7,2014 | 02:11AM
bekwell wrote:
I like your idea inverse. Lying to the pubic by government officials should be a felony.
on February 7,2014 | 03:30AM
bekwell wrote:
You have the right to remain silent. At least in a free country, but that may change.
on February 7,2014 | 03:28AM
maya wrote:
I don't see how you can criminalize a person who lies when not under oath to the police. I can see this tested in court, and tossed out. Personally, when I see cops I avoid them. They are not your friends.
on February 7,2014 | 04:39AM
EwaWarrior wrote:
So, shouldn't there be a comparable bill which makes it a crime if a police officer lies to witnesses or suspects in order to coerce them into revealing information they would not have had they not been lied too? How about criminalizing lies politicians tell, i.e., I thought I could keep my health care plan if I liked it? NOT!
on February 7,2014 | 04:44AM
Bdpapa wrote:
I look at it this way, the truth is just a matter of perspective.
on February 7,2014 | 05:37AM
soundofreason wrote:
Doesn't this already fall under the penalty umbrella of "obstructing justice" ?
on February 7,2014 | 05:43AM
seaborn wrote:
Ridiculous legislation proposal. I can see how a police officer could corrupt the speeding offense, and they will.
on February 7,2014 | 09:16AM
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