Photo of Sarah A. Phillips and Bradley S. Phillips

The False Statements Act of 1996

On Behalf of | Feb 3, 2021 | Uncategorized |

Federal law prohibits the dissemination of “false statements,” which it has defined in its criminal statutes. Since the False Statements Act of 1996 is a federal law, it applies to residents of Louisiana and all other states. Take a look at the term, the act that instantiated it into law and how it applies in everyday legal scenarios.

What is the False Statements Act Accountability Act of 1996?

U.S. Congress passed the False Statements Accountability Act of 1996 to amend the criminal statutes that pertain to lying to the government or agents working on its behalf. The most noteworthy and important changes made in the legislation concern 18 U.S.C. 1001.

What is a false statement?

What entails “false statements” has a very particular definition within the context of the law. According to 18 U.S. Code 1001, a violating individual may be prosecuted who:

  • Hides facts from law enforcement
  • Lies in a statement to law enforcement
  • Creates or uses a document known to contain false information

Examples of common violations of the false statement law include lying to the FBI or the courts. Michael Flynn, Martha Stewart and other high-profile figures have gone to prison for making false statements under 18 U.S. Code 1001.

Are there exceptions to legal liability for false statements?

The False Statement Act does provide a critical exemption for judicial processes. The Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution guarantees protection from self-incrimination. Accordingly, protections against deceit in the legal process also work the other way to protect defendants’ rights in the criminal justice system. Criminal defense cases may provide the chance for diligent attorneys to overturn a conviction based on a guilty plea if the defendant was not aware of his or her rights at the time the plea was submitted, for example, or if legal counsel on the defense side was inadequate.

Knowing your legal rights and responsibilities when interacting with government agents is critical to staying on the right side of the law and out of the criminal justice system. If law enforcement approaches you, the best course of action is to invoke your constitutional protection against self-incrimination.