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What Do You Do If You're Falsely Accused of a Crime

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on March 25, 2015 11:55 AM

It happens. An innocent person's life is thrown into shambles because of a false accusation.

A police officer shows up and starts asking you questions. He's saying someone accused you of rape, theft, fraud. You're innocent, but they don't believe you. You're being falsely accused. What do you do?

Here are three things you should keep in mind if there are false allegations of a crime.

1. Don't Say Anything

Anything you say can and will be used against you. If the police show up at your door asking you questions, don't panic. Don't proclaim your innocence. Don't try to explain. Police don't have to read you your Miranda rights until you are in custody and being interrogated. This doesn't mean you shouldn't exercise your right to not say anything.

Also, don't talk with anybody else about "your side of the story." Your statements to your mother, brother, sister are not privileged, and they may be subpoenaed to testify against you later on.

While statements you make to another person outside of court are usually hearsay and inadmissible, there are many exceptions. Any inconsistent statements or "false statements" you make can be introduced in court to discredit you. Even getting the facts wrong can make it seem like you are giving a false statement and lying.

Any admissions you make can be introduced in court under the hearsay exception of party admissions.

2. Call an Attorney

The one person you should definitely talk to is an attorney. Your conversations with your attorney are protected under attorney-client privilege. So, blab away. The more information you can give your attorney, the better equipped they will be to:

  1. Deal with the accuser's threats. If an accuser is threatening to falsely report you to the police, your attorney may be able to convince the accuser of the error of their ways. This is considered malicious prosecution. People shouldn't pursue a civil case or civil lawsuit without grounds or probable cause.
  2. Protect you from incriminating yourself. You are entitled to have an attorney with you whenever the police want to question you.
  3. Determine if charges have actually been filed. Have criminal charges actually been filed? For what crimes? Are the charges misdemeanors or felonies?
  4. Negotiate with the prosecutors. If there is little or no evidence of wrongdoing on your part, your attorney may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor and try to get the charges dropped or lessened, depending on the situation.

You may have a false imprisonment case if you are sent to jail. The criminal justice system doesn't always get things right, and you'll need an attorney to sort things out.

Even if you don't go to jail and a false accusation has been dismissed, you may still need your attorney for a defamation case.

3. Sue for Defamatory Statements

A false accusation doesn't just land you unfairly in jail. It can ruin your reputation. It can hamper your future career. It can cost you thousands of dollars in legal fees.

If you've been falsely accused, you may have a claim for defamation of character. In a claim for defamation, be it libel or slander, you would have to show that a defendant's statement to a third party harmed your reputation and caused you damages. False accusations of serious crimes are often considered libel per se.

If you've been falsely accused, suing might be your next legal action. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help you protect your rights and assess your options.

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