California Penal Code Barring False Citizens’ Complaints Deemed Unconstitutional

WASHINGTON – The United States Supreme Court will not be reviewing a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court that held as unconstitutional California’s law prohibiting false citizens’ complaints against peace officers.

California Penal Code Section 148.6 states that “Every person who files any allegation of misconduct against any peace officer, as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2, knowing the allegation to be false, is guilty of a misdemeanor. In Darren David Chaker v. Alan Crogan and the People of the State of California, however, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the penal code to be unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition for review.

That decision is opposite to the California Supreme Court’s prior ruling in People. v. Atkinson (Stanistreet), which held the code to be constitutional.

According to a Case Alert Memorandum circulated by the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA) and the law firm of Jones & Mayer based in Fullerton, Calif., although the federal decision does not affect the state decision, enforcement of Section 148.6 could lead to civil rights lawsuits seeking substantial damages in federal court. The memorandum recommended that departments cease using the language in Section 148.6 in all citizens’ complaint forms and confer with their legal counsel.

For additional information on this matter, contact the CPOA at (916) 263-0541 or go to its Web site at Martin Mayer of Jones & Mayer can be reached at (714)446-1400.

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