I am looking for the more common and correct term used when someone tries to misdirect investigations on a crime that has been committed .

For example,

a murderer who tries to create false evidence so that possibly someone else is suspected of the crime they committed.

I think that "mislead or misdirect " investigations can be used, but is there a more precise term used in these specific cases?

N.B. I am not referring to "alibi".

  • 'Creating false evidence' or lying to the authorities is a crime; making misleading suggestions or not volunteering information is not. It is important (whether you are an investigator, a witness or an author) to distinguish the two. Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 12:11
  • 3
    What register are you looking for? Formal/legal? Mobster slang? Not sure what you mean by "correct term".
    – TimR
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 12:41

15 Answers 15


Consider, draw/drag a red herring across the trail/path/track

red herring

Something intended to mislead or divert attention from something else; from the old practice of dragging a herring across a track to confuse tracking dogs. Dictionary of Unfamiliar Words

The purpose of her trip to Wentworth was to hide there the dead lady's golf clubs – left-handed clubs, the attaché-case being a red herring to put the police off the trail. Murder in the Mews

set up someone [to be the fall guy]

informal Make an innocent person appear guilty of something: suppose Lorton had set him up for Newley’s murder? ODO

More than seventy years after Bruno Richard Hauptmann was executed for the kidnapping and murder of the two-year-old son of aviation hero Charles A. Lindbergh, some students of what was known as "the crime of the century," which the famed muckraking journalist H. L. Mencken termed the greatest story since the Resurrection of Christ, believe that Hauptmann was in fact the victim of a conspiracy involving faked evidence to set him up to be the fall guy. History's Greatest Conspiracies

  • From the comments above, this would seem to be what the OP is looking for. If you edit to show an example, I will up-vote. Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 12:26

This is commonly known as an attempt to put/throw them off the scent, an allusion to trying to misdirect sniffer dogs sent to track the criminal.

Throw someone off the scent Mislead someone in the course of a search or investigation - ODO


You could consider obstruction of justice:

Obstruction may consist of any attempt to hinder the discovery, apprehension, conviction or punishment of anyone who has committed a crime. The acts by which justice is obstructed may include bribery, murder, intimidation, and the use of physical force against witnesses, law enforcement officers or court officials.

[Ohio State Bar Association]

Its definition from West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2:

A criminal offense that involves interference, through words or actions, with the proper operations of a court or officers of the court.

The integrity of the judicial system depends on the participants' acting honestly and without fear of reprisals. Threatening a judge, trying to bribe a witness, or encouraging the destruction of evidence are examples of obstruction of justice. Federal and state laws make it a crime to obstruct justice.

Common law jurisdictions other than the United States tend to use the wider offense of Perverting the course of justice

Perverting the course of justice is a criminal offence in England and Wales. The offence is committed when a person prevents justice from being served on him/herself or on another party.



Are you looking for

Frame - verb - to contrive the evidence against an innocent person so that a verdict of guilty is assured


Tampering with evidence:

Tampering with evidence, or evidence tampering, is an act in which a person alters, conceals, falsifies, or destroys evidence with the intent to interfere with an investigation (usually) by a law-enforcement, governmental, or regulatory authority. It is a criminal offense in many jurisdictions.

Tampering with evidence is closely related to the legal issue of spoliation of evidence, which is usually the civil law or due process version of the same concept (but may itself be a crime). Tampering with evidence is also closely related to obstruction of justice / perverting the course of justice, and these two kinds of crimes are often charged together. The goal of tampering with evidence is usually to cover up a crime. [Wikipedia]


In the UK, the offence is known as 'perverting the course of justice'.

According to this Wikipedia article,

Perverting the course of justice is a criminal offence in England and Wales. The offence is committed when a person prevents justice from being served on him/herself or on another party. It is a common law offence, carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

The term is always applicable (if formal), but the legal situation involved may not be. Wikipedia adds the caveat:

The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United Kingdom and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject.

More informally, 'laying a false trail' may be used metaphorically; pointing at someone innocent as being a culprit is often referred to as 'framing' them (slang).

  • 1
    "Laying a false trail" is the concept I'd like to express.
    – user 66974
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 11:12

Would wild goose chase or snipe hunt fit the bill?

NY Post:

Man taps into police radio, sends cops on wild goose chase


In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the police are diverted on a snipe hunt so that a mob can try to harm prisoner Tom Robinson.


A blind, perhaps - Any thing or action intended to conceal one's real design; a pretence, a pretext. (OED)


I reckon you're all trying to lead OP up the garden path.

  • Please give a full explanation why this fit the question. Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 11:39
  • @MattE.Эллен: Thanks for the downvote. To leade someone up the garden path is to give someone misleading clues or signals, for instance ` to misdirect investigations on a crime that has been committed`
    – Magoo
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 14:20

Hoodwinked, or to hoodwink are concise ways of conveying deceit and misdirection.


Counter-forensics would refer to any activity meant to confuse or mislead forensic analysis. Like intelligence and counter-intelligence.

  • Welcome to English Language & Usage. This answer was flagged as low-quality because of its length and content. Can you try to include reference or link (that can support your answer) and its essential part? Please take the tour and visit our help center for additional guidance.
    – user140086
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 8:39
  • Counter-forensics and anti-forensics are both terms common in computer security.
    – WorBlux
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 23:46

Creating false evidence to point the blame at someone else is almost always called framing them. Surprised nobody has posted that yet. As a noun, we sometimes say "it's a frame-up"

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/frame (#25)


"He was laying a false lead." seems to fit rather well since in contrast to most other suggestions it is in preparation of having others misled, making a separation in time between the act of obfuscation and its effect. Which is how I read your question.


I vote for red-herring as the most commonly used "correct" term. It popped into my head before I finished reading the question, and, though I can't recall the origins of the term, it meets the required parameters the questioner.

  • Welcome to English Language & Usage. Your post doesn't answer the question and reads more like a comment. Please make sure that you take the tour and visit our help center for additional guidance. You can post a comment when you have more than 50 reputation points.
    – user140086
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 7:15
  • Please explain how it fits the parameters. Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 11:39

Hey sir I hope this helps you as I've been searching for it all night!

My word hunt was for the word: Prevaricate, insofar as an interchangeable term with perversion of justice in common law. hopefully your search can end as did mine, here (:

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.