By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
I get asked this question from time to time, so today I’ll try and answer it.
The short answer is maybe. In virtually any assault case, the main evidence comes from the alleged victim who almost always gives a statement to police either at the scene of the arrest or at the police station.
Alleged victims are often later asked to give statement in subsequent proceedings whether it is in trial, statements to a prosecuting attorney, or by signing affidavits of non-prosecution requesting that charges be dropped. Statements which are inconsistent with the original statement given to police can give rise to criminal liability to the victim.
Texas Penal Code 37.08 covers false reports to police officers and states in relevant part, “A person commits an offense if, with intent to deceive, he knowingly makes a false statement that is material to a criminal investigation and makes the statement to… (1) a peace officer conducting the investigation; or (2) any employee of a law enforcement agency that is authorized by the agency to conduct the investigation and that the actor knows is conducting the investigation.”
In a nutshell, it is possible that where an alleged victim makes a statement to law enforcement down the road in a case which reveals that they weren’t being truthful at any point of the case when dealing with police or with prosecutors… then the alleged victim themselves can have criminal exposure.
False reports to police officers are class b misdemeanors and carry a punishment of up to 180 days jail and a $2,000 fine.
Also, the attorney representing the accused in an assault cannot also give legal advice to the alleged victim. This is because there is a very clear conflict of interest for the attorney who represents the accused’s best interests — and has no ethical or legal obligation to protect the alleged victims interests as well.
If you’re the alleged victim in an assault case or domestic violence case in Texas, you may want to seek legal counsel if you have any questions about your rights and representation if so needed.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For specific legal advice about any particular case or situation you should directly consult an attorney.