I've been wondering about this. I know that, say, it is generally a crime to file a false police report, and the motivation for this seems logical because that it wastes police time and resources - and thus takes them away from being able to spend them on real leads, and thus also to degrade the public safety by that little bit.

But I also know that, if one admits to making a crime on a public forum, such as an Internet forum, it is possible that a prosecutor who is looking at such fora could potentially use the admission to bring charges, even if the admission is not specifically directed toward one. However, what I wonder about is if some of the above logic does not also, then, apply to a situation like this: if one were to, given this fact, falsely announce on such a forum that one had committed a crime that one actually did not, could it amount to having the same effect of wasting prosecutor/law enforcement time albeit in a more indirect way that sneaks through their attitudes, and thus potentially also be considered some kind of crime?

(I want to point out I'm not referring to making a false claim to be the perpetrator of a known crime, or to falsely claim someone else is that perpetrator to, say, get reward money. I'm referring specifically to announcing an unknown crime one did not commit, a crime that does not exist, on a public venue like a forum that is not specifically a channel to police or other authorities. If a prosecutor got ahold of it and tried to pursue it, and it were during the course of that proven a hoax, what would happen?)

FWIW, the country in question is the United States.

3 Answers 3


It could lead to investigation and wasting of government resources, but it is not a crime and not civilly actionable, under the circumstances described. The First Amendment right to say crazy things is pretty broad.


I can't think of any situation where this would be the case, but I also can't rule out the possibility that there might be some strange fact pattern where it was the case.

For example, many states make it a crime to sell legal substances claiming that they are illegal drugs.


I think there would be some factors as to the nature of the crime and how convincing you were. True Threats are not protected by the First Amendment, the UR case being that you can't yell "Fire!" in a Crowded Theater... of course you can, you just have to sincerely believe there was a "Fire" in the crowded theater and wanted to save lives. Yelling it in a theater to watch the panic is not protected and you can be hit with a number of laws. Certainly the panicked reader who thinks you are really admitting to a serious crime calling the cops could get you investigated and that could lead to some charges related to causing a public panic.

There's also the issue of some speech that is illegal but is still requires discretion with respect to intent to commit the crime. A famous example is making a threat to kill the president. SCOTUS ruled that the Secret Service should know the difference between a joke and an actual threat when they prosecute someone for a crime, but it does allow the Secret Service to investigate the suspect to make sure it's certain it was not a threat. Most Americans are fine with this because there's a lot of history of Presidents who were assassinated or damn near assassinated that the joke is usually crossing the line, even if you didn't vote for the current office holder.

And of course, certain times, lying about a criminal past is generally given a pass. Comedian Bill Engval once joked that he told a boy picking his daughter up for a date that "I have no problem going back to jail." Is a double whammy, as he is admitting to threatening the youth by implying that he's been to jail for an unspecified crime. Did he make the threat? Did he go to jail in the past for a crime shrugs but he didn't have any legal trouble for it, though again, the father meets the daughter's boyfriend is a staple of American humor... there's even a somewhat popular country song based on the concept that father is meeting the daughter's boyfriend for the first time and is explaining to the young man how much he loves her... while cleaning a hunting rifle. The song ends with the father telling the scared kid to be back by 10 and the kid hastily says he's only gonna have her out til 9... and the dad compliments the smart lad.

Again, the humorous nature of the implied threat of the situation is a staple, but no prosecutor is going to convict a father on this. It really boils down to your intent to cause a panic and the resulting panic.

  • Young man replies: "I have a gun as well, but I'm not good at handling it. Sometimes it goes off for no reason at all".
    – gnasher729
    Jan 16, 2023 at 12:02
  • @gnasher729 I'm not sure I understand your comment here.
    – hszmv
    Jan 17, 2023 at 13:05

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