The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the desperation in several individuals. The scarcity of supplies led to fights in grocery stores, the recession has driven everyday citizens to shoplift, and there have been reports of unemployment fraud across the country. One of the most damaging crimes that have come out of this healthcare crisis is individuals lying about COVID-19, often to avoid being arrested by the police. However, this can easily lead to far more serious charges.
Why Are People Lying About COVID-19?
As mentioned above, this pandemic has made people desperate. Many are scared, anxious, and stressed about the future. They may be unsure about where their next paycheck will come from or how they will put food on the table. That may lead some to consider shoplifting or robbing a local store in order to feed their families or make rent. In any situation, these actions do constitute a crime and the courts will not look kindly on someone making a false report just because we are in a healthcare crisis.
However, some individuals falsely believe that they can use COVID-19 to their advantage. If they are being pursued by a store’s security guard or the police, they may shout “I have COVID!” and then cough or spit to deter someone from arresting them. Whether it is true or not, this can lead to serious criminal charges.
In two separate cases, passengers on planes lied about have COVID-19, forcing the planes to land. In the first case, it involved a Toronto rapper who allegedly wanted to go “viral” on Instagram after he told a whole plane of passengers he had visited Wuhan and may be infected. With the other case, an elderly man was arguing with a flight attendant and lied about having COVID-19.
In both instances, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) did not take these false claims lightly, and both men were arrested and charged a crime.
Is Lying About COVID-19 a Crime?
If you do not have COVID-19 and claim to any government authority, whether it is the police, an agency like the FAA, or even a firefighter, you can be charged with violating California Penal Code 148.3 PC. This law specifically makes it illegal to falsely report an emergency. Given the current state of the world, lying about having COVID-19 can amount to a false report because this virus is treated as a healthcare emergency.
If you are actually infected, healthcare professionals and government agencies will need to utilize extensive resources to ensure that you have not infected anyone else and sanitize the area you are in. Falsely reporting an infection can lead to these resources being wasted, which the government will not take lightly. Even if you are making a joke, it can lead to serious charges, as seen in a case where a man in Texas lied on Facebook about having COVID-19, which led to county sheriffs charging him with making a false report.
In the state of California, falsely reporting an emergency is a misdemeanor that comes with up to one year in a county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. During a pandemic and recession, you definitely do not want to have to deal with both of those penalties.
But these are not the only charges you can face. If you are fleeing the police and attempt to cough on them, you can be charged with both resisting arrest and aggravated battery, as is the case with a Chicago man who lied to the police. Resisting arrest can result in another misdemeanor charge along with making a face report, whereas aggravated battery charges can lead to a felony if the district attorney determines that your crime was severe enough.
Bottom line, do not lie about having COVID-19, even if you are trying to avoid another criminal charge. Lying can only make your situation worse. Instead, exercise your right to remain silent and contact an Orange County criminal defense attorney at Law Office of Michael L. Guisti. Our lead attorney is a member of the Nation’s Top Attorneys and has extensive experience defending clients in a variety of cases. To learn how we can protect your rights and fight back against any charges you are facing, call our office at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999.