Being accused of a crime you didn’t commit can bring immense distress, life changes, and unforeseen financial burden. Unfortunately, sometimes false accusations don’t end up being dismissed and innocent people get charged for crimes they didn’t commit.
In this blog post, we detail the steps that should and those that should not be taken if you are falsely accused, how to prove false allegations in court, as well as the benefits of filing a civil suit for malicious prosecution.
Steps to Take If You Are Falsely Accused
Realize the Seriousness of the Accusations
Even though everyone should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, law enforcement, prosecution, jury, and judges will not take the accused’s word for granted. Realizing the seriousness of accusations at the very beginning of the process is crucial, meaning that the commitment to taking action will improve the chances of a favorable outcome.
Understand the Cost of Defense
A comprehensive defense comes with a hefty price. From expert witness and attorney fees to investigation costs, it will likely be an expense no one is prepared for, especially if they are falsely accused. However, these costs can be reimbursed once the person’s innocence is defended, and we’ll get back to this later in this blog post.
Intervene Before Charges
Having an experienced defense attorney even before the charges are made can make a significant difference. The attorney can intervene before the charges by convincing the prosecution and police of the person’s innocence and the accuser’s malicious intentions.
Take No Action
A seasoned attorney can also evaluate if taking no action is a stronger strategy based on the circumstances. Sometimes, the prosecution ends up with insufficient evidence and is unable to charge the person with a crime due to a lack of reliable testimony, favorable test results, and similar reasons.
Obtain Witness Contact Information
It is always a good idea to come up with names and contact information for people who can provide insights about the accusations, the alleged incident itself, or the circumstances surrounding it.
Dedicating time and effort to conducting a detailed investigation can aid the case by providing insight into the shortcomings and strengths of the case. A defense attorney should always consider the statements of any witnesses or expert witnesses, as well as the prosecution’s evidence, as this may strengthen the defense.
Based on the investigation and evaluation of the evidence against the accused, a defense attorney will be able to provide advice regarding whether it’s a good idea to plead guilty in spite of one’s innocence. Even though this sounds and feels unjust, sometimes it is an option that will come with a less severe sentence and without leaving a mark on a permanent criminal record.
Learn more about different types of pleas in our blog post.
How to Prove False Allegations in Court
Seek the Help of a Criminal Defense Attorney
As in many other legal proceedings, the safest first step is to contact a criminal defense attorney with vast experience. Not only will they know how to devise a defense plan best, but will often provide initial consultations free of charge and will retain client-attorney confidentiality.
Conduct a Pre-Trial Investigation
A defense attorney should conduct an independent investigation ahead of filing criminal charges. Preliminary investigation can reveal favorable insights based on witness statements or previously omitted evidence that can help dismiss charges or be charged for a lesser crime.
Gather Evidence to Support Your Side of the Story
Make sure to gather evidence that has the potential to incite reasonable doubt regarding the false allegations. Receipts that can prove that you were at a cafe and not at the crime scene when the crime was committed, video footage, photos, witness statement, or any other substantial evidence can improve the chances of defending the case.
Obtain Evidence to Impeach the Accuser
Another way to fight false allegations in court is to find a way to discredit the accuser’s trustworthiness. Once impeached, they will be a less credible individual in the judge’s and jury’s eyes, thus increasing your chances of defending your case.
Take a Private Polygraph Test
Polygraph results are another type of evidence that can strengthen the case. If the defendant passes the private polygraph test, that is, if the results are favorable, the defense attorney can share them with the judge and the jury in an attempt to prove one’s innocence.
However, there is no legal obligation to share the results of a private polygraph test, as they can remain confidential.
What You Shouldn’t Do When Someone Makes False Accusations Against You
Destroy Any Evidence
Ensure that none of the evidence is destroyed, no matter how problematic it may seem. The destruction of evidence during a criminal trial is a crime in itself, meaning that when the defendant destroys the evidence, they will be charged for committing a crime, regardless of the outcome of their initial false accusation charges.
Contact the Victim or Witnesses
This may be the most important thing to remember: never contact the accuser – not by phone, email, or text, nor on social media, and especially not in person. Any engagement may be used against the defendant and may result in further criminal charges and allegations.
Talk to the Police, Prosecutor, or Criminal Investigator Without Your Attorney
Always use your right to remain silent. Police and prosecution are capable of subtly leading the defendant to share inadvertently incriminating information, and may misuse the defendant’s statements in court – even if they are innocent. For this reason, it is important to avoid talking altogether without a criminal defense attorney present.
Consent to a DNA Test or Other Tests Requested Without Your Attorney Present
It is just as important not to agree to a DNA or any similar test without a defense attorney present as it is not to talk without them.
Filing a Civil Suit for Malicious Prosecution
Even though many would like to be done with the case after it’s proven that they have been falsely accused, it could be beneficial to put in the patience and work for one last push in the form of filing a civil suit for malicious prosecution.
Having spent significant time, energy, and finances to prove your innocence can have consequences on a person’s life. While it cannot make up for all the emotional distress, humiliation, or loss of reputation, a civil lawsuit can bring monetary compensation for any legal fees, lost salaries caused by hours spent in jail or court, and psychological and medical therapy expenses.
Many reasons motivate people to accuse someone falsely of committing a crime. From gaining leverage while fighting for child custody to acting on strong feelings such as anger, jealousy, or revenge, we see various reasons in our defense practice.
If you are in need of a seasoned Austin criminal defense attorney, contact GHC Law Firm today.