State v. Branch

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 01-19-2018
  • Case #: S064318
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Flynn, J. for the Court; Balmer, C.J.; Kistler, J.; Walters, J.; Nakamoto, J.; Duncan, J.; & Landau, S.J.

Under ORS 162.375, a person commits the crime of "initiating a false alarm or report" by making a false allegation of a new criminal matter in response to police questioning.

Both State and Branch appealed the lower court’s conclusion that Branch’s initial false statement to police was not a violation of ORS 162.375, but a jury could find that Branch’s “repetition and embellishment of the false accusation” to police constituted knowingly initiating a false report in violation of ORS 162.375. Branch assigned error to the latter conclusion; the State assigned error to the former conclusion.

On appeal, Branch argued that neither his initial false statement nor his continuation and expansion of that statement constituted a violation of ORS 162.375 because the statements were made “in response to police questioning during an investigation of a report that someone else initiated.” In response, the State argued that both false statements were sufficient to violate the statute because Branch claimed he left the scene of the accident because the other driver pulled a gun on him, which pertained to a new criminal matter. A person violates ORS 162.375 by knowingly initiating “a false alarm or report” to a “law enforcement agency or other organization that deals with emergencies involving danger to life or property.” The court in State v. McCrorey held, “evidence that a person has lied in response to police questioning in the course of an investigation is not enough to convict the person of initiating a false report.” 216 Or App 301, 306.

Here, the Court held that the legislature intended the phrase “initiates a false alarm or report” to encompass a person’s false statement alleging a new criminal matter because police are reasonably likely to respond to the separate crime on an emergency basis. The decision of the Court of Appeals and the judgment of the circuit court are affirmed.

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