Between 1989 and 2018, the United States exonerated 2,372 people. While not every one of the exonerations were false accusations, this statistic can help us understand how widespread false convictions and false accusations can be.

If you are falsely accused of a crime, don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Take a deep breath and dig in to do your due diligence. Here is what to do if you are the victim of a false accusation.

Take the Accusation Seriously

The first thing you need to do if you find yourself dealing with a false accusation is to take it seriously. No matter how you feel about it, you’re now under scrutiny from a wide variety of sources. The last thing you want to do is to appear to take it as a joke.

No matter how ridiculous you think the accusation is, your job is to prove your innocence. You can’t begin to do that if you try to brush it off and assume that the court system will see the truth.

Remember: People are falsely convicted all the time. Don’t let yourself be that statistic because you didn’t want to take it seriously.

Use Your Right to an Attorney

As soon as the police attempt to question you, invoke your right to an attorney. Under no circumstances should you waive that right.

You might think that because you know you’re innocent you have nothing to hide, so an attorney isn’t necessary. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

A lawyer does much more than defend you, they make sure that you are being treated fairly and that the prosecutors and investigating officers are acting within the law.

Remain silent and protect your legal rights.

Prepare for the Cost of Your Defense

Unless the court finds that you don’t have the means to hire your own attorney and appoints you with a public defender, you’re going to have to prepare for the cost of your defense.

A legal battle is a costly investment, and you need to do what you can to ensure that you have the best lawyer you can afford. Do not attempt to represent yourself.

Lawyers come in a wide variety of price ranges. Some charge by the hour, and some charge by the case. Dig deep and see where you can pull money from to afford the best lawyer you possibly can.

Conduct a Pre-File Investigation

If you can get a lawyer before the prosecutors charge you officially, they will be able to conduct a pre-file investigation. This is when the law firm investigates the allegations before they are filed.

Your defense attorney might interview witnesses, find new witnesses, gather physical evidence, search the background records of your accuser, and collect all information that will cast doubt on their case.

Once your attorney completes the investigation, they may be able to convince the DA to file a lesser charge, or even not file any charges at all.

Keep All Documentation

As soon as you find out that someone has accused you of a crime, start to collect your documentation. Any correspondence you have between yourself and your accuser is important to the investigation.

Write down all of the details of the event. Make a list of any witnesses who may be able to back you up, and preserve all of the physical evidence you can.

It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared, especially when you know you’re innocent.

Educate Yourself on the Criminal Justice System

Whether you like it or not, you’re a part of the criminal justice system now. You would be wise to learn everything you can about the trial process and appeals.

Your lawyer is the best person to turn to for this information because they understand the details of your case that generic research doesn’t. However, arming yourself with knowledge from all sources is never a bad thing.

Understand Your Rights

As a citizen of the United States, you have several rights when you stand trial.

The Sixth Amendment grants you the right to a speedy, public trial and the right to a lawyer. You have a right to an impartial jury of your peers and you have the right to know who is accusing you.

Your lawyer will help to ensure that you are given all of your rights, even some you may not be aware of.

File a Civil Suit for Malicious Prosecution

If the court finds you not guilty, your lawyer may be able to help you file a malicious prosecution suit. This is a civil suit that can help you see justice if you are the victim of a frivolous lawsuit. If found guilty, the other party may have to pay damages.

If the court decides that your accuser knew they wouldn’t win their lawsuit but chose to file anyway to harass you or achieve some other purpose, they could be found guilty of malicious prosecution.

Things You Should Never Do for a False Accusation

If you are falsely accused, you should never attempt to destroy evidence that would make you look bad. Even if you know you’re innocent, all evidence needs to be presented to the court, and if you are caught destroying evidence, you could find yourself facing worse charges.

Also, as we mentioned before, you should never attempt to represent yourself in court. Let someone who has been trained in law tell you what to do.

Next Steps

If you are the victim of a false accusation, it’s easy to let yourself panic or treat it like a joke. But if you want to be able to show the court that you are a respectable citizen who is innocent of a crime, you need to make sure that you’re taking all the right steps to protect yourself.

Legal battles can be a headache, but you can be better prepared by doing your research. If you have been falsely accused of a crime and are looking for a lawyer, check out the rest of our articles to prepare yourself.