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What to Do If You Are Falsely Accused of a Crime

June 25, 2021

When a person is falsely accusation of a crime, they are accused of a crime that they did not commit.  In reality, a person can also be falsely accused of any category of crime, they never committed, such as assault, rape, or arson.

Numerous reasons a person may get falsely accused of a crime exist. Five of the most frequent are:

  1. misrecollection,
  2. mistaken identity,
  3. malicious false accusations,
  4. official misconduct, and
  5. misleading evidence.

 

Persons who have been falsely accused of a crime have options. They can:

 

  1. get a defense attorney,
  2. carry out a pre-file investigation,
  3. impeach their accuser,
  4. file a civil suit for malicious prosecution.

or they can take a combination of some or all of these steps.

 

The California criminal defense attorneys at Spodek Law Group can help you if you have been falsely accused of a crime.   In this article, you will learn:

  1. What is a false allegation?
  2. What do the evidence and statistics say about wrongful convictions in the U.S.?
  3. How do people get falsely accused of crimes?
  4. What options does a person have if they have been falsely accused of a crime?
    1. Get a defense attorney
    2. Carry out a pre-file investigation
    3. Impeach the person that made the accusation
    4. File a civil suit for malicious prosecution
  5. Take a private polygraph test

 

  1. What is a false allegation?

A false allegation is when someone gets accused of a crime that he or she did not commit. These charges should be dismissed in the event that the accused or his defense attorney can demonstrate to the court that the allegations against them are false.

A wrongful conviction can happen when a factually innocent individual gets convicted by the court system.

In the United States, persons may be wrongly accused of any type of crime. Most frequently false accusations involves the offense of battery domestic violence.

For example:  Veronica finds out that her husband has been cheating on her.  In her anger, she calls 911. She tells the police that her husband beat her.  The police then arrest him and book him with the crime of battery domestic violence.

In this case, Veronica has falsely accused her husband of a crime.  If her husband cannot prove that he didn’t commit the crime, he could get wrongfully convicted of felony offense.

 

  1. What do the evidence and statistics say about wrongful convictions in the U.S.?

In the United States, 2,372 exonerations have been recorded between 1989 through the end of 2018.  This doesn’t mean that all of them were truly factually innocent, nor does it include persons who have been falsely accused but were never exonerated.  Nevertheless, it does suggest that false accusations by alleged victims and wrongful convictions are widespread.

To be exonerated means that a court reverses a person’s criminal conviction.  Exoneration statistics can  help the justice system to estimate general statistics on wrongful convictions.

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, 151 exonerations occurred in 2018.

Among the 2018 exonerations brake down as follows:

  • 101 for violent felonies, including 68 homicides, 7 child sex abuse convictions, and 10 sexual assaults on adults,
  • 2 that had been sentenced to death,
  • 33 for drug crimes,
  • 23 were based in whole or in part on DNA evidence,
  • 70 were for convictions in which no crime was committed,
  • 107 that involved misconduct by government officials,
  • 49 were for convictions based on guilty pleas,
  • 31 involved mistaken eyewitness identifications,
  • 19 involved false confessions, and
  • 111 included perjury or a false accusation.

It is worth noting that the majority of sexual assaults, an estimated 63%, never get reported to law enforcement.  The incidence of false reporting cases of sexual violence is generally low.

 

  1. How do people get falsely accused of crimes?

There five most common reasons for why a person may be falsely accused of a crime.

 

  • Cases of mistaken identity –when the accuser misidentifies a person.
  • Misrecollection – this is when the accuser remembers details about a crime incorrectly.
  • Malicious false accusations –when an accuser purposefully lies to the authorities that a person committed a crime
  • Misconduct by officials –when prosecutors or police commit some form of misconduct, or abuse of power, when arresting or charging an individual.
  • Misleading forensic evidence – experts exaggerate statistical claims to give their statements more power in court. This can involve DNA analysis or hair analysis.

A note about mistaken identity cases:

These often occur during police line-ups. Witnesses tend to choose someone in the lineup who looks most like their memory of the suspect they saw.  This phenomenon is known as the “best guess problem.”

 

Official misconduct can be subtle in nature. For example, during an investigation, police are supposed to ask witnesses open-ended questions such as “what happened next?” so they preserve accuracy. Some police officers ask “leading questions” which cause witnesses to create false memories.

For example:  Police are investigating Jacob for a burglary. During the interrogation, an investigator asks, “when did you see Jacob enter the house?”  although the witness only admitted to seeing the suspect on the front lawn of the house.

Questions such as “What happened next?” are permissible, open-ended questions. On the other hand, that question about Jacob entering the house is an impermissible, leading question. It could cause false memories and confuse a witness.  Also, if the witness feels intimidated or pressured, they may give an answer to appease the investigators. This can result in a false accusation.

 

  1. What options does a person have if they have been falsely accused of a crime?

A falsely accused individual has options as follows:

  1. Get a defense attorney,
  2. Carry out a pre-file investigation,
  3. Impeach the person that made the accusation,
  4. file a civil suit for malicious prosecution, and/or
  5. take a private polygraph test.
  6. Get a defense attorney

The most important move a person can make if falsely accused of a crime is to remain silent and secure legal representation to protect their rights.

A criminal attorney is the best person to advise an accused of the best course of action.

 

  1. Carry out a pre-file investigation

A “pre-file investigation” is when an attorney investigates allegations of a crime before criminal charges are filed. The goal of this investigations is to round up evidence that is favorable to an accused person.

Pre-file investigations can be a rather effective defense strategy.   An accused’s attorney can go to the District Attorney with the results of this investigation and try to persuade them to refrain from filing charges or file lesser charges. A good examples of a lesser charge for a crime is a disturbing the peace as opposed to domestic violence.

 

  1. Impeach the person that made the accusation

To impeach a person means to present evidence or questions that undermine the accuser’s credibility. The best opportunity for this is at trial during cross-examination.   Impeaching may also be accomplished by presenting evidence that shows that the accuser is not truthful or knowledgeable on a topic.

 

  1. File a civil suit for malicious prosecution

A malicious prosecution claim is a civil cause of action that is designed to come against people who file frivolous lawsuits and cause damages as a result.  In such cases, the injured party files a civil lawsuit against the person that brought the false claim against them.  If the accused plaintiff can prove that:

  1. the defendant filed a frivolous claim against them,
  2. the lawsuit was filed for some other purpose other than to prevail, such as for harassment, and
  3. the plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the false allegations.

If all of these are proven and the plaintiff is found innocent, they may be awarded compensation for damages.

This compensation takes the form of compensatory damages and may include:

 

  1. Take a private polygraph test

Taking and passing a private polygraph test could help a defendant who is falsely accused. The defense attorney can show the results to the prosecutors, who may then be convinced to dismiss the charges or offer to do another polygraph at the prosecutor’s office. If the defendant passes that one also, the prosecutors may decide they have too weak a case and drop charges.

 

The law offices of Spodek Law Group can help you if you have been falsely accused of a crime.  Contact us right away if you or your loved one need help getting exonerated.

 

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