2023 Bills

HB 254: Punitive Penalty Enhancement for False Statements

This bill passed the House 68-1 but did not receive a vote in the Senate. Review our tracker for more information.

Libertas Institute opposes this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it violates our principles and must therefore be opposed.

No one wants to go to jail. So when a suspect is arrested, a common delay tactic is to claim one has ingested drugs. Law enforcement are then required to take the suspect to a hospital to be medically cleared before booking the suspect. This process can take a few hours. At a minimum, officers are not available to conduct more valuable duties. At worst, officers may have to forgo booking the suspect entirely if another call is more urgent than staying at the hospital. It can be a significant problem, especially for small agencies that may only have a few officers on duty at a given time.

While the problem is real, HB 254, sponsored by Representative Ken Ivory, is not the answer. The bill would punish lying about ingesting drugs by enhancing the underlying offense by one degree. So if someone was picked up for stealing a credit card, a third degree felony, and then lied about swallowing a balloon full of heroin to delay going to jail, the person would be guilty of a second degree felony. If someone was guilty of their first DUI, a class B misdemeanor, it would be enhanced to a class A misdemeanor.

Part of the problem with this approach is the inconsistency in its application. The maximum penalty for a third-degree felony is five years in prison while the maximum penalty for a second-degree felony is fifteen years. The lie could potentially tack on ten years. The difference between the maximum penalty for a class B and a class A misdemeanor, however, is only 184 days. So in the case of our DUI example, the penalty for the same lie is much less.

Certainly, there should be incentives in place to discourage wasting law enforcement and hospital resources. Perhaps it could be a class B misdemeanor with a mandatory community service hours requirement or a requirement to pay restitution to cover the hospital bill and officer time. In any event, enhancing the underlying offense is neither proportionate nor likely to be effective at reducing the problem.