No one is perfect. We’ve all made mistakes here and there. Most likely, we’ve even all broken the law at some point in our lives, even if it’s as simple as driving too fast or failing to yield.
But there’s a difference between speeding ten miles over the limit and having someone convict you of a serious crime. If you’ve ever been falsely accused of theft or sexual assault, you understand that sick feeling in your stomach.
What do you do next? How do you respond? How can you protect yourself and prove your innocence?
When you find yourself falsely accused of a crime, you have choices. Keep reading to learn the best course of action to take immediately when someone falsely accuses you of something you are factually innocent of.
Seek Professional Help
Experts estimate that the United States has a wrongful conviction rate of between two and ten percent. Often these wrongful convictions stem from government error with a combination of prosecution and judicial errors.
The moment someone accuses you or charges you with a crime, contact an attorney. Look specifically for a defense attorney.
Attorneys specialize much the way any professional specializes. For the best legal help when falsely accused of any crime, you must go to a criminal defense attorney.
Realize a good defense attorney will come at a price. But the attorney understands defense strategy and the laws that exist to protect you. If you do not hire a criminal defense attorney, your situation can change quickly.
You may even incriminate yourself for something you did not do. Accusations such as drug charges and assault carry weighty sentences, so contact a professional to help you before you do anything else.
While You Wait
After you contact an attorney, you can keep yourself busy by helping yourself and your attorney. Your attorney will have questions for you, so start with these tasks.
You will need two lists for your attorney. Start by visualizing the crime scene, and then make a list of possible evidence that you know is at the crime scene. Authorities will most likely not allow you to take any evidence from the crime scene or even visit the crime scene, so think about any evidence that would point to you and write that down.
Then make a list of any witnesses that will, may, or won’t testify for you. Think about people who know you best, individuals who can corroborate your innocence or tell the truth about the incident. Find those witnesses’ contact information and write it down so your attorney and their investigator has less legwork to do.
Gather any physical evidence you can put your hands on. Consider clothing, videos, and photos. Then gather any documents or records relevant to your case. Think about letters, legal records, digital communication, phone records, social media, surveillance footage and cameras, or any records that indicate where you were at the time of the crime.
How an Attorney Will Help
Once the attorney is formally retained, you can deliver your lists you’ve written and the materials you’ve gathered. You will give the attorney a head start on your case. However, if the attorney only needed lists and materials, you wouldn’t need an attorney in the first place, right?
Here are a few of the things an attorney can do that make them worth the cost:
Know When to Take Actions
Your attorney will know if they should intervene. Your attorney may have built up a rapport with a particular prosecutor in the case. They might even know the judge personally and/or professionally. He may have the opportunity to talk to them and convince them they have the wrong person from the start.
Your attorney will also know when they should do nothing.
Sometimes your best strategy is to wait and see what happens. The prosecutor may not have enough evidence to charge you with the stated crime, but you won’t know that unless you just wait. Witnesses have been known to recant or change their statements over time.
Your attorney can also reach out to law enforcement investigators to prevent them from contacting you! This is critical. Without a lawyer on board, there is nothing standing between you and law enforcement. They have nearly unfettered access to you, and can approach you for statements as much as they feel is necessary during their investigation. The more statements you make, the more potential legal jeopardy you put yourself in.
Additionally, your lawyer may be able to work with law enforcement to prevent public embarrassment and humiliation. If the police intend to make an arrest, your lawyer can help pre-arrange a self-surrender to be done out of the public eye. This saves you from being arrested in front of your neighbors or co-workers/boss. Finally, your lawyer can pre-wire a bond with a bail bondsman in advance of your booking. This will help ensure you are in-and-out of custody with alacrity. Otherwise, you risk spending needless extra time in jail, without an easy way to contact the outside.
Investigate With Experience
Unless your attorney has never tried a case before, they have investigative experience. They will conduct a thorough investigation of the evidence, will retain expert witnesses, and will interview witnesses. A thorough investigation will determine if the defendant has a good case or not.
Attorneys are experienced at charge bargaining and plea bargaining. They also understand when a plea bargain is your best option. This is especially true since over 97% of criminal cases never go to trial. Even if you are innocent of the crime you’ve been accused of, there are often times other facts or circumstances that may exist to permit a lesser-included offense (i.e., a misdemeanor or infraction, or a diversionary deal that results in a dismissal). There are various ways to negotiate a case to avoid being convicted of the most serious charges, especially if you are factually innocent of the crime or crimes alleged.
How to Protect Yourself
When someone first accuses you of a crime, your fear of incarceration may lead you to make some unwise decisions. Whatever you do, do not do the following things:
- Try to contact the victim. You may want to try to contact the victim to defend yourself or explain your side. However, a victim can easily twist your words, making you look even more guilty. They are also likely to notify law enforcement. This could work against you, and even result in new charges like witness tampering or intimidation.
- Try to contact a witness. Treat witnesses just like the victim, and stay far away. Talking to a witness could result in charges for intimidating a witness, so do not run this risk.
- Talk to authorities alone. You should always have an attorney present whether you’re talking to an investigator or law enforcement.
- Destroy evidence. If you think you have incriminating evidence, tell your attorney, but do not attempt to destroy anything. Destroying evidence will make you look even more guilty and may even lead to more charges filed against you.
- Voluntarily give up your DNA or any evidence without your attorney present. Always refer back to your attorney, and say you will not do anything without your attorney present.
Fear makes everyone act irrationally and–at times–against their best interests. If you’re being accused of a crime you did not commit, you should always contact a criminal defense lawyer as a logical first step. They can be the voice of reason, experience, and wisdom in your time of need. The criminal justice system is designed to be intimidating. Call a lawyer, and let them give you the answers you need to keep you from making these all-too-common mistakes.
Seek Legal Help When Falsely Accused of a Crime
When you find yourself falsely accused of a crime, seek legal help. Attorneys know what to do and can bring you peace of mind and a clear record.
If you’ve found yourself in trouble, contact us. We can help you clear your name.