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Updated:

August 30, 2022

What Should You Do If You Are Falsely Accused of a Crime?

Be wrongly accused of a crime - indescribably terrible. If you are being accused of a crime you didn't commit, you need to take certain steps. let's learn them!

It is bad enough to be charged with an offense or a crime. It is a perversion of justice to be wrongly accused of a crime. Justice, and your future, demand that you respond effectively. With the help of a seasoned Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer, you can fight back against the Pennsylvania criminal justice system.

What Are False Allegations?

A false allegation occurs when someone accuses you of a crime that you did not commit. If you are accused of a crime, the prosecutor might file criminal charges against you. Even if you are charged with a crime but not convicted, the charge will still go on your criminal record, and you might need an expungement to remove it. 

False accusers target some crimes more than others. You might face a false accusation of:

  • Rape;
  • Drug possession or trafficking;
  • Theft; or
  • Domestic violence.

Accusations of domestic violence are the most common forms of false accusations, especially during child custody proceedings. 

What Are the Main Reasons Why People Are Falsely Accused?

It is distressingly common to be falsely accused of a crime. Statistics indicate that most false accusations fall into the following categories:

  • Mistaken identity: The accuser makes an honest mistake as to the identity of the perpetrator of a crime that occurred. This often happens during a police lineup whether the victim makes their “best guess” at the culprit even when the culprit is not in the lineup.
  • Misrecollection: The accuser misremembers facts about the crime, including the identity of the culprit, or details about the crime that can lead to a false accusation.
  • Malicious false accusations: It is distressing enough to be charged with a crime that you didn’t commit. It is even more distressing to learn that your accuser acted from malicious motivations such as the desire to gain an advantage in a child custody dispute (which motivates many false allegations of domestic violence).
  • Police or prosecutor misconduct: Imagine a prosecutor falsely charging someone with a crime to gain a reputation for “law and order” strictness in a reelection campaign. In some cases, racial motivations are present.
  • Misleading forensic evidence: It is the prosecutor’s job to charge with an offense or a crime. An overzealous prosecutor might exaggerate the significance of a DNA test or other forensic evidence.

Other types of false accusations occur as well, but they are not as common. 

What Should You Do If You Are Falsely Accused of a Crime?

If you are being charged with a crime, you need to act quickly and decisively. If you are being accused of a crime you didn't commit, you need to take certain steps even if the prosecutor hasn’t charged you yet.  

1. Hire an Attorney 

Have you been charged with a crime? If so, you need a seasoned criminal defense attorney immediately. There are simply too many ways to harm your case without the advice of a good attorney. A criminal defense lawyer knows your rights, and they will help you protect them. They know how to make a criminal prosecution as difficult as possible for the prosecution while establishing defenses that you might not even know that you have.

2. Remain Silent

If you have watched TV police dramas, you have almost certainly heard it before: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say…”. Exercise your right to remain silent, especially if you are innocent.

What happens when you are charged with a federal crime? You can expect an aggressive investigation and even more serious potential penalties. Federal prosecution is all the more reason to play it smart by observing all of these tips. 

3. Don’t Use a Court-Appointed Attorney

A court will appoint an attorney for you if you cannot afford to pay for one. There are many skilled and dedicated court-appointed attorneys in Pennsylvania. You do not get your choice of court-appointed attorneys.

Court-appointed attorneys, however, are also extremely busy, with a single attorney often handling dozens of cases at once. A court-appointed attorney simply doesn’t have enough time to give you the best representation. Never forget that criminal prosecution can have lifelong consequences.

4. Only Submit to Drug and Alcohol Testing After the Police Arrest You

Regardless of what the police might say or insinuate, you are under no legal obligation to submit to drug or alcohol testing before they arrest you. If a police officer tells you to cooperate with a breathalyzer test when you are not under arrest, for example, you can politely refuse without breaking the law. After the police arrest you, however, it is against the law to refuse a drug or alcohol test. If you refuse, the police might charge you with a second crime. 

5. Ask about Your Charges

You have the right to know exactly which crime the state is charging you with. If the police don’t tell you, demand a specific answer. The state can charge some offenses as either misdemeanors or felonies. Felonies are a lot more serious than misdemeanors, and a felony conviction can ruin your life even after you get out of prison. You must know the exact nature of the charges against you to prepare an effective defense. 

6. Don’t Post Bail without Consulting Your Attorney

have you been charged with a crime

When you are sitting in a jail cell, especially for a crime you didn’t commit, it is understandable if you’re willing to do anything to get out as soon as possible. When it comes to posting bail without consulting your attorney, however, resist this temptation. A good criminal defense attorney will visit you and consult with you even if they have to come to the jail to do it. 

Your attorney might be able to lower or even eliminate your bail amount. 

7. Gather Evidence

With the aid of your lawyer, gather evidence that supports your side of the story. This might include witness statements, CCTV surveillance footage, phone records, etc. If you have an “alibi” proving that you were nowhere near the scene of the crime, submit evidence supporting your alibi. Although not all evidence is admissible in court, your lawyer can help you sort out what is and what isn’t admissible. 

8. Create a List of Witnesses

The presence or absence of effective witnesses can make or break your defense. The two types of witnesses that you should most carefully consider are eyewitnesses and character witnesses. Eyewitnesses are people who saw the events in question with their own eyes, and character witnesses are people who can testify to your good moral character. Although you might need expert witnesses as well, your attorney is in a better position to locate them.

9. Create a Timeline

Create a timeline for the events in question while they are still fresh in your memory. State facts that can be verified, and detail the circumstances surrounding the event in question. For example, if your partner is accusing you of domestic violence when they were the one who initiated the abuse, describe what led up to the confrontation.

10. Avoid Communicating with Anyone Involved in the Crime

falsely accused of a crime

If a crime occurred, do not associate with anyone involved in the crime. This kind of contact can blow up in your face in a hundred different ways. In a worst-case scenario, the state might end up charging you with an additional crime. Your best bet is to stay completely away from these people, for the duration of your case and perhaps forever. 

11. Don’t Discuss Your Case

Discussing your case with anyone other than your attorney is a terrible idea. The police and the prosecution are experts at making you look guilty by using your own words against you. Do not discuss your case on social media, and warn your friends not to talk about your case on social media either. 

You can say just about anything to your attorney, as attorney-client privilege protects the confidentiality of your communication. You can even prevent your attorney from revealing your private conversations in court. Even if your attorney did reveal private information, a court cannot use it against you.

12. Don’t Miss Your Court Appearances

If you are reluctant to appear in court, speak with your attorney to see if they can appear on your behalf. Even if the court requires your personal appearance (which it often does), your attorney might be able to get your hearing rescheduled. Above, don’t miss a court date that the court requires you to attend. “Failure to appear” is a crime all its own. Even if the state does not charge you with failure to appear, an unauthorized failure to appear in court can harm your case.

Conclusion

If Pennsylvania has charged you with a crime, hesitation can result in disaster. Act quickly to retain a skilled criminal defense lawyer, and don’t let fear overwhelm you. Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Alan J. Tauber has over a quarter century of experience on his side. Call him at (215) 575-0702 for a free, confidential consultation.

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