What to Do If You’re Falsely Accused of a Crime
Every year, thousands of people are falsely accused of a crime. It could be a neighbor accusing you of vandalism that someone else did. It could be a vindictive ex trying to make you look bad or ruin your reputation. Or it might even be a police officer who has good intentions but inaccurate perceptions – or unreasonable suspicions.
In any case, if this happens to you, you might feel confused, frightened, and angry at the situation (and the false accuser). What should you do?
Take the Matter Seriously
If you’re being accused of a crime by someone you don’t respect or someone who has a history of making false accusations, you might brush this off as inconsequential. But it’s important to take this matter seriously. Even if you have plenty of evidence that you are not guilty of this crime, the time and money it takes to clear name is significant. You need to be prepared to handle this as straightforwardly and as professionally as possible.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer
One of the first things you should do is contact a criminal defense lawyer, especially if you’re being interrogated by the police. A criminal defense lawyer is going to help you in many different ways. We can stand by your side while you’re being questioned by the police, informing you of your rights and helping you answer the questions in a way that behooves you.
They can help you understand the law and the seriousness of the accusation being levied against you. They can provide you with advice and direct you how to act from the moment you’re accused to your trial (if you end up in court). And they’ll also represent you in court if you’re forced to argue your innocence there.
Try to Remain Calm
If you’re feeling angry, betrayed, hurt, or confused, those feelings are entirely valid. They’re even more justifiable if the person falsely accusing you is someone you used to trust. However, you need to keep your feelings in check if you’re going to get out of this with the best possible results. If your anger motivates you to intimidate the alleged victim, or if your confusion causes you to accidentally incriminate yourself, you’re going to be in a much worse position. Take deep breaths, meditate, and do whatever else it takes to remain calm and levelheaded throughout this process.
Start Documenting (and Gather Evidence)
As early as possible, start documenting everything you can related to this false accusation, and gather any evidence that might exonerate you or strengthen your case.
This could include things like:
- Camera feeds. Do you have any security cameras in your house or in your workplace that could have recorded you during the time when the incident is alleged to unfold? Are there any pictures or videos that could support you in any way?
- Emails and written communication. Have you spoken to the victim or the accuser in written form? For example, have they threatened you in the past, or do you have clear written evidence, but the situation did not unfold the way they said?
- Alibis. Is there proof that you were somewhere else when the crime was committed? Do you have a timecard that proves that you were at work or a close friend or relative who can attest to your whereabouts at the time?
- Witness accounts. Think about witnesses as well. Is there anyone that saw this incident unfold, and are they available to speak to your defense? Your lawyer may be able to help you track these people down.
As much as possible, stay quiet. You’re not required to answer the questions of police officers interrogating you, and any answer may incriminate you, no matter how innocent it seems. Only answer questions related to your identity and facts of what you are certain. It’s also important to stay quiet outside of interrogation, limiting your interactions on social media and not talking to your friends and family members about the accusations.
Cooperate With Law Enforcement (to an Extent)
You shouldn’t talk to the police without a lawyer present, but for the most part, you should cooperate with law enforcement. If you’re being arrested, don’t resist. If you’re being questioned, remain polite. You’ll have every opportunity to prove your innocence, but if you resist arrest or aggravate officers, your situation could get much worse.
When in Doubt, Follow Your Lawyer’s Advice
Being falsely accused is scary and intimidating, especially if you’ve never been accused of a crime before. That’s why it’s so important to have an expert on your side throughout this process. If you’re in doubt about anything, ask your lawyer – they’ll be happy to give you the perspective and advice you need.