While we’ve already covered the fact that it’s a crime to knowingly expose someone to the coronavirus, it’s worth mentioning that doing the opposite can also get you in trouble with the law. That is, claiming to be infected with Covid-19 when you’re actually not can result in criminal charges depending on the situation. In other words, when it comes to disclosing your coronavirus status, honesty is the best policy.
Why is it a Crime to Lie About Covid Infections?
To be clear, not all cases of someone falsely claiming to have coronavirus will be illegal. If you tell your sister you can’t watch her kids because you have covid-19, that’s not against the law -though it is morally questionable. On the other hand, if you board a plane and tell the flight attendants you’re sick with the virus once it’s taken off, if you cough on someone after saying you’re infected or if you tell you’re employer you have coronavirus so you can take advantage of paid leave, you just might need to call a lawyer.
What Charges Will You Face?
There is no specific law about lying about having a disease when you’re actually not infected. That doesn’t mean you can’t get in trouble though, it just means the specific charges will vary from situation to situation. If the situation involves a government agency, such as the Police Department, Fire Department, or the FAA (as would apply in the case of a untruthful mid-air coronavirus confession), you could be charged with falsely reporting an emergency. Falsely reporting an emergency is a misdemeanor and those charged with the crime will also need to repay the government agency for any expenses related to responding to an emergency, which could include the cost of sanitizing an area in this case.
If you claim to be infected for the purposes of threatening someone, you could be charged with assault or making a criminal threat. If you actually coughed on someone you could be charged with battery, even if you were actually uninfected. In some cases, people are telling police they are infected for the purposes of avoiding arrest. In these cases, you could also face charges related to resisting arrest and if you actually coughed on the officers, you will face enhanced penalties for assault or battery on an officer. Whereas ordinary simple assault and battery charges are only punishable by up to 6 months, these enhancements will double the potential sentence.
Finally, claiming to have covid-19 so you can get benefits from your workplace or to get an extension on your rent or mortgage payment is fraud. In fact, the FBI even investigated and filed wire fraud charges against one man who lied about having coronavirus in order to take advantage of the company’s paid time off program for those who were infected with the disease. The company even closed down the location where the man worked and fully disinfected it, costing them $100,000 in losses, which is why the case is being taken so seriously by authorities.
Don’t Speak to Police Without Your Lawyer
If you have fraudulently claimed to be sick with coronavirus, do not speak to the police without your attorney present. Remember that anything you say could be used against you, whether you confess to the lie or attempt to present evidence proving you really were infected.
Peter M. Liss has helped people charged with all types of criminal charges, ranging from violent offenses like assault and battery to white collar crimes like wire fraud. If you have been accused of any crime, he can help you too. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.