An unfortunate reality of the American justice system is that not everyone convicted of a crime is actually guilty. Being accused of a crime is one of the worst things that can happen to a person, but if that false accusation turns into a conviction, the consequences are even direr and life-changing. Repercussions from losing one’s job to ostracization from society can truly catapult one into what seems like a never-ending downward spiral. Although our criminal justice system works in most cases and is held up as a standard to many other countries, not all juries get things right.
Unfortunately, in such cases, the consequences to the accused can be horrific, such as what happened to a Vallejo couple in 2015, where an abducted woman and her boyfriend were accused of staging a hoax similar to that presented in the movie, Gone Girl. While this example did have a happy ending, and no innocent people were incarcerated, this doesn’t happen in all cases, and innocent people do go to jail.
A man was recently released from prison after serving 20 years for an attempted murder and robbery conviction related to a shooting at a Compton gas station in 1996 after prosecutors were forced to admit the facts pointed to his innocence. His conviction largely rested on a witness misidentification, a known source of false accusations and wrongful convictions.
The 20 years this man lost in prison can never be recovered and highlights how an aggressive approach to challenging false accusations is essential to mitigating the potential consequences.
The best way to avoid such a situation is to do your best to ensure the proper outcome, which means immediately securing representation from experienced criminal defense attorneys. Anytime a person is a suspect in connection with or facing charges for a crime, a criminal defense attorney should be contacted to protect the accused’s rights and to limit the potential fallout.
Skilled criminal defense attorneys know and can navigate through the complex idiosyncrasies of the criminal justice system to ensure the fairest possible conclusion. An overview of what someone falsely accused of a crime should do in the immediate aftermath, and the options criminal defense counsel has to combat such claims, follows.
How to Respond to False Accusations
First and foremost, anyone accused of a crime should always assert his/her right to remain silent when arrested or questioned by police. Since the person accused is unlikely to know exactly what the accuser told police, offering information may inadvertently support the accusation. In addition, prosecutors usually have to decide whether or not to charge someone with a crime within a relatively short period of time, so the less information they have to work with, the better for the accused. The only information the accused should offer is his / her name, and a request to speak with an attorney.
Being falsely accused of a crime, unfortunately, does not alter the way the matter progresses through the criminal justice system. This is because the prosecution typically does not believe the defendant’s assertion. Consequently, one who is falsely accused should never think that, because he/she is innocent and has nothing to hide, there is no need to seek the counsel of an attorney. In fact, as a result of the false accusation, there is perhaps an even greater need for legal advocacy.
One tactic that should never occur without the presence of counsel is for the defendant to negotiate a plea agreement on his/her own. In other words, a defendant should also never agree to plead guilty to a lesser offense without the advice of counsel.
While, in some cases, agreeing to a lesser offense may be the best option, even for innocent defendants, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be in the best position to not only negotiate the best possible plea deal but to explain all the ramifications of an agreement to that plea deal to his/her client.
An attorney should be requested at the outset of any type of investigation, including arrest or questioning. In addition, the accused should make sure to restrict discussions about the case to communications with his/her attorney. Friends, relatives, and acquaintances can all be called to testify in court, but only if they have relevant information to share.
How Do You Defend Yourself Against False Accusations?
First, it is important to understand that cases involving false accusations should be not handled differently because the person is certain he/she is innocent. Competent criminal defense is just as necessary, and making plea bargains directly with prosecutors should be avoided. It may be tempting to accept a plea deal to avoid a trial and jail time, but there are still consequences to accepting responsibility for a criminal offense.
While it is true that it is difficult to prove one’s innocence against false accusations, it is not impossible. In cases, for example, where both parties are present at trial, unlike homicide, cases focus on the testimony of both parties involved. An experienced criminal trial attorney on your side will best be able to persuade the jury to believe your assertions. Specifically, your attorney should examine not only the evidence but the credibility of the witnesses, in their preparation for your defense.
Additionally, in all criminal trials, the prosecution must prove that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. A skilled attorney will use all means at his/her disposal to combat this significant burden. In addition to that listed above, this would also involve a thorough discovery of all facts in an effort to dispute all the elements of the charged crime.
Another approach a criminal defense attorney can take to combat false allegations is to attack the legality of the underlying arrest. Police cannot arrest a person without probable cause, which requires police have a reasonable basis for believing a certain person committed a crime.
Being arrested for any of the following, on the other hand, would not satisfy the requirements of probable cause:
- arrest based on age or race
- arrest due to personal bias or dislike of a police officer
- arrest due to high crime rates in the area
Hire a Lawyer to Defend Against Wrongful Accusations
Criminal accusations should not be tackled alone. And, when it comes to defending against false accusations, your best strategy is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to aggressively prove your innocence and protect your rights.
The Los Angeles Manshoory Law Group, APC will work to keep you involved in the legal proceedings and strive to find the best possible solution to your case. Attorneys are available 24/7. Contact us to schedule a consultation.