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Making a False Complaint Against a Law Enforcement Officer is Now a Recognized Criminal Offense in WV

Effective July 7, 2021, it is a criminal offense to make a false complaint against a law enforcement officer in West Virginia. This new offense was added to the existing Obstruction statute and reads:

A person is guilty of filing a false complaint against a law-enforcement officer when, knowing the information reported is false or baseless, he or she:

(1) Initiates a false complaint of improper action of a law-enforcement officer relating to an incident or other circumstance; or

(2) Reports, by word or action, to any official or quasi-official agency or organization having the function of dealing with conduct of law-enforcement officers which did not occur, does not in fact exist; or

(3) Reports to a law-enforcement officer or agency the alleged occurrence of any offense or incident which did not in fact occur.

The penalty is a fine not more than $1,000 or confinement in jail not more than six months, or both fined and confined.

The critical element of this offense is that the complaint must be knowingly false or baseless. A good-faith complaint, even if incorrect or inaccurate, does not satisfy the elements of this criminal offense.