Unfortunately, some criminal cases begin because one person makes false accusations against another individual. The unfounded allegations might arise for several reasons. For instance, the accuser might want to get the upper hand in a separate legal matter, or they might have misremembered the details of the incident. Regardless of the motives, false accusations can have serious consequences. As the person accused, you could face criminal charges and a wrongful conviction. Still, you can fight to clear your name and seek justice. In this blog, we discuss ways you can handle false allegations.
False Allegations Can Lead to Criminal Charges
To be falsely accused of something means that someone had said that you were involved in criminal activity when you weren’t.
Such reports can be made for all types of alleged violations, including:
- Domestic violence,
- Rape, or
The prosecutor can pursue the case if enough evidence exists to support the belief that you committed the alleged offense. Depending on the crime you were accused of, you can face misdemeanor or felony charges. Sadly, some matters involving false allegations result in convictions. That means if you are found guilty, you could be facing up to 1 year in jail (if accused of a misdemeanor) to decades or life in prison (if accused of a felony).
Reasons False Accusations Arise
A person might make a false report of criminal activity for several reasons.
Some of these include:
- Mistaken identity: Your accuser might have wrongfully identified you as the actor.
- Faulty memory: Your accuser might not have accurately recalled the details of the events leading up to the alleged offense.
- Revenge: Your accuser might intentionally lie to hurt or get revenge on you for some perceived wrong.
- Divert attention: Your accuser might have actually been the one involved in wrongful conduct but accuses you to get the focus off themselves.
What to Do If Someone Falsely Accuses You
Whatever the reasons someone has for making a false accusation, the situation is not an easy one. You are now facing criminal charges and an unknown outcome – all for something you did not do. Fortunately, you do have options for combating the unfounded claim.
One of your first moves should be hiring a criminal defense attorney. Although you are innocent, it’s still a good idea to have legal representation on your side. The criminal justice system is not easy to navigate, especially if you aren’t familiar with the processes. A misstep at any stage of your case can be detrimental.
Cases involving false allegations often present complex challenges. For example, if someone intentionally lied about you to exact revenge, you’ll likely be facing a hostile witness. Or if the prosecutor pursues the case, the evidence they relied on to make their decision might be misleading if it supports the claim that you did something you actually didn’t do.
A lawyer can help you sort through the details and build your defense.
The other important thing to do in your case is to collect evidence. If the prosecutor hasn’t filed charges yet, you and your attorney can conduct a pre-file investigation to gather information favorable to you.
The evidence can be:
- Witness testimonies,
- Expert opinions, and
- Surveillance footage,
- Among other things.
With this material, you may be able to show that the allegations against you are false and prevent the prosecutor from pursuing the case.
You and your attorney can also challenge your accuser’s credibility. You could present evidence showing that the accuser has a history of lying or had an ulterior motive for accusing you of the crime.
What Not to Do If Someone Has Falsely Accused You
Understandably, you would want to challenge the false accusations against you to protect your name. But telling your side of the story to law enforcement officials might not be the best course of action. Anything you say to authorities can be used against you in your case. Even if you think your statements prove your innocence, they could be misconstrued and used as evidence of guilt.
Remain calm and quiet after being falsely accused. Discuss the details of your case only with your lawyer.
As with remaining silent with law enforcement officials, refrain from speaking to your accuser. Asking them to recant their story might not lead to dropped charges. This tactic could backfire, as it might upset your accuser, and they could say that you intimidated them, resulting in charges like obstruction of justice (Utah Code § 76-8-305.5).
Your Accuser Could Face Criminal Charges
In Utah, providing false information to law enforcement officials is a crime. If your accuser tells officers that you violated the law knowing that you didn’t, they could be charged with false reporting (Utah Code § 76-8-505).
Additionally, you may be able to file a civil suit to seek remedy for the harm your accuser caused.
Contact an Attorney Today
Whether criminal allegations against you were founded or unfounded, you need a lawyer on your side to help fight charges. Our Salt Lake City attorneys conduct thorough investigations to uncover the facts of our clients’ cases and tell their sides of the story.
To speak with a member of the Lokken & Putnam, P.C. team, please call us at (801) 829-9783 or submit an online contact form today.