False accusations can derail a person’s reputation and life in multiple ways. You can face anything from social isolation and job loss to prison time if you don’t defend yourself. Even the accuser can’t always undo the damage after making a false accusation due to the structure of our laws.
Not only do false accusations create misery for the targets, but they also take away valuable resources from law enforcement and prosecutors working on real crimes. A University of Michigan study found that there were 151 exonerations in 2018, suggesting false allegations were to blame for many cases. Overall, the study found 2,372 exonerations recorded between 1989 and 2018.
What can you do when you are facing false accusations?
The False Accusation Landscape
A false accusation or allegation occurs when someone is accused of a crime they didn’t commit. False accusations often involve theft, drugs, rape, homicide, battery, or domestic violence. Domestic violence cases tend to spawn false accusations.
For example, one partner may accuse the other of violence after a heated argument involving no physical contact. Sometimes the aggressor is the one to call the police, trying to turn the tables on the other party.
One spouse in a contentious divorce case may drum up false allegations to sway a judge in a custody decision. All these come under the heading of malicious false accusations.
Sometimes, false accusations aren’t intentional but occur as a matter of course while identifying a potential perpetrator. Police line-ups create the conditions for mistaken identity cases, while other times, people incorrectly recollect the details of an incident. Asking leading questions can create the conditions for incorrect memories.
Of course, we can’t rule out misconduct by officials who abuse their power when arresting or charging someone. Misleading forensic evidence can also be used against an innocent defendant. The expert might exaggerate statistical claims in DNA or hair analysis to increase the impact of their testimony.
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Defending Yourself Against False Accusations
If you find yourself falsely accused of a crime you didn’t commit, what happens? Your attorney begins by thoroughly investigating the circumstances of the accusation. First, the law firm does a “pre-file” investigation before the criminal charges are filed. An early investigation can eliminate the need for filing charges on your record.
The investigation includes:
- Interviewing witnesses that met with police
- Finding new witnesses
- Gathering physical evidence
- Searching background records
- Collecting information on the accuser to cast doubts on their credibility
- Consulting with expert witnesses
Often, such investigations reveal inconsistencies in the accuser’s story. They can’t keep the story straight or provide details that don’t fit the picture. They may have a history of dishonesty that can be used to discredit their story.
Sometimes the accuser alleges injury when there is no sign of it, or the existing injury doesn’t match the accusations. Security camera footage or other corroborating evidence might show the defendant wasn’t even present or that the actions alleged by the accuser never occurred. Witnesses can testify on your behalf.
In some instances, you may impeach the accuser and file a civil suit for malicious prosecution.
What Should You Do If You Are Falsely Accused?
Your first step is to remain silent. Retain an attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and begin an immediate pre-file investigation. Nipping it in the bud is the best defense. If you can hire a lawyer to take proactive measures, you may never be charged with a crime.
An attorney can discuss the case with the police or the prosecutor and provide information that convinces them they have the wrong person.
Your lawyer may decide to wait and see if the prosecution can develop the necessary evidence to charge you with a crime. A witness might recant, or test results support your innocence.
Understand that these are serious accusations that can cause you harm. False allegations come with potential penalties, and you can’t assume the police, prosecution, judge, or jury will take your side.
Prepare to pay. False accusations are financially costly, and attorney fees, expert witness fees, and investigation costs can add up. It’s money well-spent if you can clear yourself, but the expense on top of the accusation can seem unfair.
Gather evidence and obtain witness contact information to start building your case. Clothing, photographs, and financial documents can bolster your argument, including GPS data, emails, and receipts that prove where you were when the crime was committed.
Enter into a plea bargain if necessary. Unfortunately, innocent people sometimes enter into a plea agreement with a prosecutor to mitigate the risk of conviction or a permanent criminal record. Your attorney is best able to guide your decision.
What Not to Do
If someone has falsely accused you of something you did not do, do not:
- Destroy evidence you think can hurt you
- Talk to or contact the victim or witnesses
- Speak with the police, prosecutor, or criminal investigator without your attorney present
- Consent to a DNA or other test requested by police without your attorney present
Any of these actions, taken without the guidance of an expert attorney, can reduce your chances of escaping false accusations.
Examples of False Allegations
A Couple Separates
One partner wants to retrieve property from a shared home, but the other partner becomes angry and strikes out. To mitigate the consequences, the second partner calls the police to allege the first partner attacked.
Separation of Marital Assets
One spouse may fear the other will receive the lion’s share in the divorce proceedings and purposely injure themselves, blaming it on the other spouse. Since they see evidence of an injury, the police arrest the innocent spouse.
False Rape Claim
For some reason, an individual brings false accusations of rape against a dating partner or a stranger. After the police arrest the individual, the accuser recants. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t allow the police to release the accused; only the prosecutor can decide to release the individual or level charges.
Call the Office of Brett Podolsky for Help
Once you are inside the criminal justice system, it can be hard to escape, even when you are innocent. Brett Podolsky is an experienced criminal attorney who can provide the investigative and legal services you need to free yourself and clear your name.
We can help you prevail in cases of false accusation so you can move forward with your life. Schedule your free consultation today.