False Statements Lawyer

Person Signing Document Paper

Federal agents speak to several people during a criminal investigation to gather as much evidence as possible to help build their case. If one of these individuals willingly and knowingly makes a false statement or conceals a material fact from a federal investigator who is part of the legislative, judicial, or executive branch agencies of the United States government, he or she could be convicted of a violation of Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1001, also known as the False Statements Accountability Act. A prosecutor frequently uses the statute to warn individuals about the dangers of knowingly making material false statements to representatives of the federal government.

What Constitutes a False Statement?

A false statement could be a misrepresentation, material omission, or the use of a fraudulent document. 

Under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, knowingly making a false statement of a material fact in any matter within the jurisdiction of the federal government’s executive, legislative, or judicial branches is a federal crime. This means one does not need to be under oath in a courtroom to be charged with such a crime. As long as the statement was made during the course of a federal inquiry or investigation, it may constitute a criminal offense. 

This is true even if one does not receive any warning from the government or if the agents were not actually deceived by the statements. If the person being questioned knows that  the information was false at the time stated, that person could still be charged with a federal offense if the falsehood was material to the matter under question.  This remains true even when the person was unaware that the matter fell within the scope of the federal government.

What Does the Federal Prosecutor Need to Prove?

For a false statement to be punishable under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, a federal prosecutor must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all the following are true:

  1. The statement must have been made “knowingly and willfully.” The individual must have intended to deceive the government agent with a false statement. If the statement was made in good faith or accidentally, it will not qualify as false.
  2. The statement must be “materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent.” Statements, errors, or facts which are not material or relevant to the outcome of the proceeding—even if proven false—do not support a prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 1001.
  3. The statement must be connected to a matter within the federal government’s jurisdiction. The prosecution must be able to prove that the allegedly false statement relates to something within the federal government’s jurisdiction.

False Statement Exceptions

One exception to the False Statement law is that it does not apply to any party in judicial proceedings, including lawyers. Of course, knowingly making false statements in a judicial proceeding is still illegal and may result in penalties, but this is covered by different federal statutes.

Another exception relates to matters before the legislative branch—the United States Congress. Section 1001 applies to administrative matters (e.g., procurement, claims for payment, employment issues, and investigations conducted by committees and subcommittees of the Congress or Senate).

How to Avoid a False Statements Charge

To avoid a false statement charge, one should speak with a federal agent only in the presence of counsel. Should seemingly friendly federal agents approach someone, that individual should respectfully inform the agents that he or she would happily answer any questions once counsel is present. 

There is no obligation to talk with federal investigators,  Therefore, during the execution of a search warrant, persons present should remain calm and silent and should contact a lawyer immediately.

Federal False Statements Defenses Under 18 U.S.C. § 1001

There are several possible defense strategies a lawyer can use against false statement charges, including:

  • The statement was not made knowingly or willfully
  • The statement was not material to the investigation at hand
  • The statement was not within the scope of the three branches of the U.S. federal government
  • There was a lack of intent to defraud the government
  • There was a case of mistaken identity
  • The interrogation was illegal and in violation of constitutional rights
  • The prosecutor has insufficient evidence to convict the accused.

Potential Penalties for a False Statement Conviction

Making any materially false statement is a felony under 18 U.S.C. § 1001. It can result in a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment or a fine of up to $250,000.

If a false or fraudulent statement was made during a domestic or international terrorism investigation, the maximum penalty increases to eight years in federal prison. 

Consult for Free With a False Statements Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you or someone in your family have potentially made a false statement to a federal agent or are charged with a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001, you need to speak with an experienced federal defense lawyer right away. 

Mr. Richard A. Serafini of the Serafini Law Office has over 40 years of criminal law experience as both a federal prosecutor and federal defense attorney. He will speak on your behalf, ensure your legal rights are protected, and work on your defense to obtain the best possible outcome for you. 

The Serafini Law Office currently offers legal services to the following cities and states: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York. 

Contact our criminal defense law firm at (754) 223-4718 for a free and confidential consultation.

We Proudly Serve the Following Cities/States:

  • Miami
  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Boca Raton
  • West Palm Beach
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania