January 10, 2021 | Criminal Defense
The American justice system moves slowly. Oftentimes, this means that false accusations can take a lot of time and effort to disprove. In the meantime, you could live under a cloud of suspicion that may affect your family life, career, and even where you can live.
However, you can beat a false accusation in court. Here are some of the things to keep in mind if someone falsely accuses you of a crime.
1. Exercise Caution When Talking to Law Enforcement
Don’t waste any time when you face false accusations in court. You will need to lay the groundwork to beat a false accusation starting from the moment that you are accused.
If the police question you, they can use trickery and deceit to get you to make admissions that will hurt your case later on. The police don’t “need your help clearing things up” and can’t “make things go better for you if you cooperate.” More likely than not, you cannot fix a false accusation by talking to the police. You will probably only make things worse by giving the police something that they can twist into a confession.
You might know that you have the “right to remain silent.” What law enforcement might not tell you is that you have a few other options when you are questioned, including:
- If the police have not yet arrested you, you can refuse to answer questions, leave, or ask for a lawyer.
- If the police have arrested you, you can decline to answer questions or ask for a lawyer and refuse to talk until your lawyer arrives.
Your instinct might be to defend yourself when someone makes a false accusation against. But remember that that law enforcement can use anything you say against you when you go to court.
2. Law Enforcement Only Needs Probable Cause to Arrest You
Suppose your spouse calls the police to your home and alleges domestic violence. If your spouse has a bruised arm and the neighbors heard shouting, the police might believe your spouse’s false story. This might give the police probable cause to arrest you for assault.
That might not seem fair. But due to the way that our justice system works, your opportunity to disprove your spouse’s story comes much later in the process.
Simply put, the police’s job is not to sort out the truth. Instead, their job is to enforce the laws. If the facts they observe give them probable cause to believe you committed a crime, they can arrest you.
The police might not have the time or patience to look at all the facts. For example, suppose your spouse’s bruise arose when you defended yourself from being hit with an object and the yelling occurred because your spouse blocked the door when you tried to leave the house. You might have a credible argument that no assault was committed or that you were the victim, rather than the aggressor.
These facts will come out.
After your arrest, your criminal defense lawyers will use your side of the story to try to:
- Dismiss the charges
- Negotiate a plea agreement
- Win a verdict of “not guilty”
An arrest based on a false accusation does not end your case. You will have ample opportunity to deny and disprove the false accusation.
3. The Prosecutor Has the Burden of Proof
You have heard the phrase “innocent until proven guilty.” This is an important principle in our justice system. It means that the prosecutor must prove you committed a crime to win a conviction. If the prosecutor fails to prove your guilt, you must be acquitted.
When facing a false accusation, this principle gives you a distinct advantage. False accusations usually have little support apart from the accuser’s word. If the prosecution cannot find any evidence to corroborate the accusation, it might be unable to meet the burden of proof. This could mean that the charges would be dismissed or that you would not be found guilty.
For example, if you have been charged with theft, evidence that a prosecutor could use to prove the details of the crime might include video evidence of the theft or finding the stolen property in your possession. If the accusation is false, the prosecutor may have no evidence of theft apart from the property owner’s police report.
4. You Have the Right to Challenge the Evidence Against You
The U.S. Constitution guarantees that people accused of crimes have the right to confront witnesses. This means that if your case goes to trial, your lawyer can cross-examine witnesses and force them to appear in person before the court so that the judge or the jury can determine their credibility.
When you face false accusations, this right allows your lawyer to poke holes in your accuser’s story. This process is called “impeaching a witness.”
Some of the ways a witness can be impeached include:
- Exposing inconsistencies in the story
- Proving witnesses could not have seen or heard what they testified to
- Showing that the witness has reasons to lie
- Establishing that the witness is biased
The prosecution always presents its case first. This means that your lawyer will have the opportunity to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses to disprove the accusations against you.
After the prosecution’s case has ended, your lawyer will present your defense. Your case can include exculpatory evidence that proves that you did not commit the crime. If the accusations are false, the prosecution’s case should be thin, and your defense should be strong.
5. Conviction of a Crime Requires Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
The jury in any criminal trial receives an instruction that the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. If it does not, the jury must acquit.
Kentucky law does not allow judges to explain “reasonable doubt” to a jury. Kentucky believes jurors should apply their individual definitions of “reasonable doubt” when deliberating. But generally speaking, when a juror harbors doubt about the prosecution’s case and that doubt can be explained reasonably, the juror probably has a “reasonable doubt.”
This standard helps people who have been falsely accused. False accusations almost always leave some room for doubt. They rely largely on the testimony of the accuser and have very little evidentiary support.
Overcoming a False Accusation
You may experience a range of emotions when you are falsely accused of a crime. This makes it critically important to hire a lawyer who can approach the case without emotion. Your lawyer will be able to systematically prepare and present a case to overcome the false accusation and restore your reputation.