false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations, or makes or uses any false writing or
document knowing the same to contain any false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or entry, shall be
fined not more than ,000, or imprisoned not more than five years or both."
This is a broad statute and the courts have given it extremely broad scope. The accused must
knowingly make a false representation of a material fact. Mere negligence or carelessness is not
enough to commit this offense. Any statement is covered, whether made because of duty, or
volunteered. In U.S. v. Rogers, 80 L.Ed 2d 492 (1984), the false statements were one phony report of
a kidnapping to the FBI, and a phony report of an assassination plot to the Secret Service. The
Supreme Court held that 1001 covered these acts; the false reports were still within their jurisdiction
because they were the agencies with investigative jurisdiction.
The false statement can be very simple and short. In United States v. Woodward, 83 L.Ed 2d 518
(1985), the Supreme Court held that a check mark in the "NO" blocks on a customs form was a false
statement under 18 USC 1001. It also held that a 1001 violation may be prosecuted along with and in
addition to other offenses to which the false statement was connected. In this case, Woodward brought
over ,000 of currency into the United States without reporting it. He was convicted for violating
currency reporting requirements under Title 31 and for the false statement, even though the check mark
was the act used for both violations.
The Supreme Court has showed its interest in this provision by denying constitutional challenges to
it. The Court held nearly 20 years ago that a citizen may go to court to prevent answering a question;
but may not answer falsely and then claim that the government could not constitutionally ask the
question. So, even though a law requires answers to questions ("are you affiliated with the communist
party") and the law might be unconstitutional, if a false answer is given, Section 1001 still applies
(Bryson v. U.S., 24 L.Ed 2d 264, 1969).
You should note the difference between 18 USC 1001 and two military offenses: false official
statements (Article 107) and false swearing (Article 134). Article 107 requires an official statement; that
is, a statement made in the line of duty. So, unless a suspect has a duty to speak, his answers during
an interrogation are not official. Article 134 (False Swearing) requires the statement to be made under
oath. The statement does not have to be official; therefore, there is no requirement of a duty to make
One problem that comes up with all three offenses is that of a person who simply says "no" to a
question, knowing that the answer is false. If a simple "no" is given, with nothing else said, the courts
call this an "exculpatory no."
The Court of Military Appeals has held that the exculpatory no is not a defense to false swearing
under Article 134. In U.S. v. Gay, 24 MJ 304 (CMA 1987), the court held that denials under oath are
not covered by this defense.