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 more dire and life-changing. 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.
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. An overview of what someone falsely accused of a crime should do in the immediate aftermath, and the options criminal defense counsel has to combating such claims, follows.
How to Respond and Actions to Take
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. 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.
Legal Options to Build Your Defense Case
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.
One 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; or
- arrest due to high crime rates in the area.
Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Criminal accusations should not be tackled alone. 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.