There are few things that feel more frustrating or confining than being accused of a crime that you absolutely, positively did not commit. But if you find yourself in a situation like this, it’s imperative that you don’t act rashly.
The Risk of False Accusations
It’s impossible to generalize false allegations. Do false allegations exist? Yes. Are they common? It’s hard to know. For starters, what does common mean? It’s difficult to put an exact percentage or number on it.
Secondly, we don’t know the full extent of false allegations. Just because someone is convicted or reaches a settlement outside of court, doesn’t necessarily mean they committed the crime. False allegations often lead to false convictions, which may not ever be uncovered.
Take, for example, sexual assault allegations. If you do some research, you’ll find that nobody agrees on the percentage of rape allegations that are false. You’ll find estimates ranging from 2 percent all the way up to 10 percent. While a single false allegation is too many, there’s a huge difference between 2 percent and 10 percent.
A 2 percent rate of false rape allegations is within reason. A 10 percent rate would indicate a serious and problematic trend. The goal of this article isn’t to nail down a specific number – we’re simply using this as an example.
If you zoom out and look at other types of criminal charges, you’ll see similar variances and disagreements. And here’s the cold, hard reality of the matter: Anyone can be falsely accused of a crime they did not commit – including you.
How to Respond When Falsely Accused
If you’ve found yourself in a situation where you’ve been falsely accused of a crime that you did not commit, here are several steps you should take right away:
- Hire an Attorney
You might think that your innocence precludes you from hiring an attorney. At one point or another, you’ve probably heard the saying, “Only guilty people need lawyers.” But this simply isn’t true. If you’re accused of a crime – whether guilty or innocent – you need legal representation. A failure to retain counsel means 100 percent of the onus is on you to prove your innocence. And if you’re facing off against a prosecutor or plaintiff’s lawyer, they’ll run circles around you.
When hiring an attorney, there are a few specific characteristics that you should look for. You want someone who specializes in your specific area of criminal defense. In other words, if you’re accused of a sex crime, you need a sex crimes defense lawyer. The second thing to consider is experience. You want an attorney with at least several years of similar cases under their belt. (In other words, don’t let them learn the ropes at your expense.)
- Gather Evidence
When you’re hiring an attorney, you should also be gathering as much evidence as you possibly can. This may include photos, videos, screenshots of messages, call logs, physical evidence (like clothing or DNA), statements from witnesses, etc. You’ll need to gather certain types of evidence as soon as possible. Other types of evidence are best collected by your attorney and legal team.
- Lay Low
The final suggestion is to lay low and avoid doing anything that could complicate your case or cast doubt on your innocence. This includes:
- Avoid social media. Nothing good can happen on social media during this time. It’s best to stay away and remain quiet while your case is under investigation.
- Avoid contact with your accuser. No matter the circumstances, you should avoid all contact with your accuser. This prevents you from saying or doing something that might hurt your case or jeopardize your innocence.
As difficult as it might be, avoiding these two things and laying low will preserve the integrity of your case and prevent unintentionally compromising your innocence.
Putting it All Together
If you’ve been falsely accused of a crime that you did not commit, it’s imperative that you fight back. However, you can’t fight back without a plan. Your fight is less “shotgun-approach” and more “surgical precision.” This is why it’s so important that you hire an attorney.
Your criminal defense lawyer will keep you grounded and follow the proper steps and procedures to handle your case in the most efficient manner possible. It might feel a little too slow at times, but your attorney understands how these processes go.
They’re picking their battles and waiting for the right moments to act.