Everyone takes comfort knowing that the American criminal justice system follows the philosophy that one is innocent until proven guilty. However, that doesn’t mean that innocent people cannot be falsely proven guilty. It may seem unfathomable that you could be falsely accused of a crime, or even more so that you could be convicted of it. Yet without the right response, a false accusation could leave you facing very real consequences.
Steps You can take to protect yourself
Find a Good Lawyer
If you find yourself the target of unwarranted legal scrutiny, you first step should be to get a lawyer. You may believe that the truth will set you free, but you should know that in many cases, you’re playing against a stacked deck. Law enforcement officers can use deception as well as your own ignorance against you. A good criminal defense attorney can protect you from unknowingly incriminating yourself.
Don't contact the accuser
Oftentimes in criminal cases, sympathy falls upon the accuser despite any motives he or she may have against you. This automatically endows him or her with the proverbial “benefit of the doubt,” and immediately puts you on the defensive. Be mindful of your actions towards your accuser, as they can be misconstrued as being retaliatory and further complicate what is already a complex situation.
Focus on what you can do
Rather than trying to reach out to your accuser and clear things up, concentrate only on those areas that you can control. Your attorney can tell you whether your best course of action may be to take no action at all, or to intervene with law enforcement to avoid being indicted altogether. At every step of your case, meticulously document every action regarding motions, evidence, and witness testimony.
What Should You do?
Consider Your Options and consequences
Be prepared to be prematurely convicted in the court of public opinion. Prosecutors may attempt to use that perception as leverage to get you to accept a plea bargain. However, pleading to a crime, even while maintaining your innocence, can leave you with a lifelong stigma. Consider this when contemplating whether to accept a deal to avoid a harsh outcome, knowing that an acquittal can eventually overpower unfounded opinion.