False accusations can ruin a person’s life and have real consequences in criminal and civil proceedings. Unfortunately, false accusations happen in divorce and child custody cases far too often. False accusations can also involve sexual harassment in the workplace, domestic violence, and assault. Many of us assume that the truth will always prevail through the court system. This is not always the case, however. The accused person may not know how to properly defend themselves, having a real effect on their lives. If you have been falsely accused in a legal matter, it is important to know what steps to take. When you use the right strategy and work with an experienced attorney, you have a good chance of clearing your name.
* Please note: All articles on this blog are for informative purposes only, and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are being accused of a crime, please contact our Texas criminal law firm directly for professional representation.
1. Stay Calm
Being falsely accused of committing a crime can be devastating. For many, being falsely accused of a heinous crime, sexual harassment, or child abuse takes a toll emotionally and physically. After being falsely accused, it is a natural response to try to fight back and defend yourself. However, defending yourself and responding to false accusations in a rash and angry way can hurt your case. It is important to remember that accusations are a marathon, not a sprint.
Even if you feel justified in defending yourself, it will only give the other side more evidence to use against you. For example, suppose the false accusations involve child abuse or neglect. These allegations could have a negative impact on your child custody order. Begin engaging in angry, mean, or irrational behavior, even though you feel justified. The judge could determine that you were an unfit parent and may not grant you custody or visitation rights in the future.
If you have been falsely accused of a crime, it is even more important that you remain calm and carefully think about how you react. Do not answer questions or talk to the police without having a defense attorney possible. Trying to explain what happened and clear your name can be tempting when you’ve been falsely accused. However, it is best to wait for your attorney before speaking to the police. Police officers are trained to elicit confessions out of suspects, even false confessions. They will also try to pressure you to waive your legal right not to speak to them without your attorney. Both of these things are true, even if you have been arrested due to a false accusation. Stay firm and tell the police that you will not speak to them without your attorney present. Doing so will help your legal defense significantly.
2. Hire an Attorney to Help You Fight Back
Whether you are facing false accusations related to a criminal charge or a civil matter, Consulting with an attorney is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself. Hiring an attorney is probably the most important step you can take when facing false accusations. You can try to go it alone and attempt to clear her name, but it will be significantly easier when you have an experienced attorney advocating for you. Your attorney will know the laws of Texas and will be able to use that knowledge for your benefit. First, your attorney will be able to help you understand the laws about the crime you have been falsely accused of committing. They will also explain any laws regarding the false accusation against you.
In many false accusation cases, there are two different steps. The first step involves fighting the false accusations in court, whether by defending yourself against criminal charges or clearing your name in a child custody or divorce matter. The second step involves potentially pursuing compensation from the person who falsely accused you in a lawsuit. Your attorney will help you understand what both processes will look like going forward. They will help you develop a strategy to deal with both aspects of your false accusation case.
Sometimes people wait to hire an attorney because they are concerned about legal bills or think they can handle the false accusations alone. Doing so can hurt victims of false accusations. It is important that you begin gathering evidence and preparing your case as soon as possible. If you wait too long to work with an attorney, you could lose valuable time and evidence. Witnesses begin forgetting what happened, or they may become unavailable to testify. The sooner you discuss your case with an attorney, the better chance you have of clearing your name.
3. Gather Evidence
After you consult with an attorney, you can begin working with your attorney to gather evidence supporting your case. We always recommend keeping meticulous records if you are going through a contentious divorce or child custody matter. Doing so is important because you will have to prove what you said and how you acted. You will need to present evidence in court to prove your innocence and prove that the false accusation made against you never happened or did not happen in the way it is being presented.
After you have been falsely accused, we recommend keeping a journal. You can keep a physical journal or keep a tab open on your notes on your cell phone. Be diligent about writing down all of the contact you have had with the person who is falsely accusing you. Write down when you received emails, texts, phone calls, and write down what happened at any in-person meetings. It is important to note that after you have been falsely accused, we do not recommend meeting with the person who falsely accused you without a third party present.
If the relationship has become contentious, you may want to refrain from communicating with the person who falsely accused you. You can ask your attorney to handle all communications with that person. The reason for doing this involves preventing any opportunities for you to be falsely accused of additional crimes or negative behavior. You should also keep all of the receipts of different stores, restaurants, or other locations to prove your whereabouts.
If anyone makes a social media post about the case, you should provide screenshots. These can be deleted later if they are not relevant, so try to capture them as soon as you see them. Keeping records is one of the best things you can do after you have been falsely accused by someone. We also recommend writing down anything you can remember about other interactions you have had with the person accusing you. Take note of any people who may have been present at the time of the alleged incident who can help you prove your innocence.
4. Challenge the Accuser’s Credibility
After you meet with your attorney, you and your attorney will begin developing a strategy to combat the false accusations against you. The strategy will depend on many different factors including the type of false accusations and whether you are in civil or criminal court. However, in all different types of cases, an effective strategy involves challenging the witness’s credibility. If someone has accused you of wrongdoing, your attorney can place them under oath on the stand.
Does the person accusing you have a history of line? Do they have other motives for accusing you of a crime? For example, is your spouse trying to accuse you of child abuse so they can obtain sole custody over your children? In that case, your attorney will want to put your spouse on the stand under oath and ask them questions. Once you figure out what the person accusing you stands to gain by making false statements against you, you and your attorney can begin determining how to reveal that the person accusing you is not credible. Your attorney will be able to ask pointed questions that make the accuser look unreliable in the eyes of judges and juries.
5. Find Your Own Witnesses and Present Evidence of Your Side of the Story
In addition to challenging the person or people who have falsely accused you, you should also find your own witnesses. Just as an accuser can use witnesses against you, you also have the right to use witnesses that can attest to your innocence or the misconduct of another person. Perhaps you have a witness who can state under oath that you were eating dinner with them when the alleged incident occurred. You may be able to find video, text, or email evidence that addresses the allegations against you, proving your innocence. In all of these cases, your attorney can call witnesses to testify to the evidence showing that you did not do what you have been falsely accused of doing.
If you have been charged with a crime based on someone’s false accusation, gathering evidence is paramount. Remember, defendants are not required to prove their innocence. Instead, they only need to show that there is reasonable doubt that they have committed the crime. Your attorney can work with you to punch holes in the prosecution’s case against you by showing the falsehoods. One of the best ways to do this is by presenting an alibi that proves there is no way you could have committed the crime. An alibi is a defense in which you offer proof that you were with another person or somewhere else when the crime allegedly occurred.
Most people who make false accusations have not thought them through. They may have made the false accusation out of anger and cobbled together a story that can easily be torn apart by a skilled defense attorney. For example, if you are being accused of committing sexual assault at 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday, but you were buying groceries with your mother at that time, you would not have been able to commit a sexual assault.
The person you were with at the time can testify as a witness in support of your case. There may be video footage showing where you were on the date in question. We also recommend writing down everything you can remember about the dating question while the details are fresh. Any information you can give to your defense attorney that will weaken the false accuser and prosecutor’s claims will help you tremendously.
6. Develop a Strategy in Criminal Defense Cases
If you are defending yourself against criminal accusations, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to seek witnesses and gather evidence to dispute false accusations against you. Your attorney will be able to challenge the prosecuting team’s witness testimony. If the prosecution’s case is built on the false accusations of one witness, challenging the witness will be essential.
Your criminal defense attorney may also threaten to sue the prosecuting party for making false accusations against you. Sometimes this is enough to make the false accuser back down and refuse to testify in court. A reputable attorney with experience related to Texas criminal laws will be able to carefully evaluate your case and find any holes in the prosecution’s case. They can also help you understand the process you are facing to prepare yourself should your case go to trial.
Even though defense attorneys are focused on getting a not guilty verdict or pressuring the prosecution to drop the charges against you, they can also help you understand your options when bringing a defamation lawsuit later. They can develop your legal defense with that strategy in mind. Without a defender on your side, it can be easy to plead guilty to a crime you have been falsely accused of committing. Instead, we recommend allowing a criminal attorney to represent your case and protect your future.
7. Develop a Strategy for Fighting False Sexual Accusation Charges
Many false accusations involve some sort of sexual harassment. Being falsely accused of sexual harassment in the workplace can be highly challenging. When an employee reports a claim of sexual harassment, even if it is false, the company is obligated to investigate. Typically that responsibility falls on the shoulders of the Human Resources Department. If you have been falsely accused at work, we recommend discussing your case with an attorney. Your attorney will be able to ensure that your rights are protected and help you if your company retaliates against you. Your attorney can help you cooperate with the investigation while maintaining your innocence.
Remember, they will investigate whether without you. You may want to provide your list of witnesses and friends, and colleagues who can back up your side of the story. If you believe the accusation is serious enough that you may lose your job, it is imperative that you hire an attorney. The cost of hiring an attorney will probably be less than the cost of losing your job. Your attorney will also understand the specific laws in Texas and the federal laws that will apply in your case. If you are found guilty even though you were falsely accused, your attorney will be able to explain all of your criminal options to you.
8. Turn the Charges Around
What if you have been accused of domestic violence, child abuse, or any other crime. Perhaps you have already been arrested and charged for the crime. Remember that making a false report to law enforcement officers is a crime in Texas. Specifically, a person engages in the crime of filing a false police report if he or she has the intent to deceive and knowingly makes a false statement that is material to a criminal investigation. People cannot make false statements to police officers, federal special investigators, or any employee of a law enforcement agency that is authorized to conduct the investigation.
In Texas, filing a false report is a Class B misdemeanor. If convicted, the defendant will be punished by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $2,000. Filing a false report about a missing person or missing child is a Class C offense, punishable by a fine only. Having an attorney inform the person who is accusing you of a crime about this Texas law could be all the motivation that person needs to withdraw his or her claims.
9. Remember: Defamation is Illegal in Texas
When you have been falsely accused, it can help to remember that making false accusations against people is often illegal in Texas. Under Texas’s defamation laws, it is illegal for a person or company to cause harm to the reputation of another person or company. There are certain factors that you will need to prove in court in order to obtain compensation for defamation in Texas. Specifically, in Texas, to win a defamation lawsuit, the plaintiff will need to prove the following three factors:
- The defendant made a false statement of fact about the plaintiff to a third party
- The defendant made a statement that caused the plaintiff reputational or material harm
- the defendant acted negligently or purposefully
If you are a public figure or official, it is harder to prove defamation in Texas. Public officials and public figures who bring a defamation lawsuit will need to prove that the defendant acted with actual malice. Actual malice means that the defendant knew the statement they made was false but decided to publicize it anyway. If you are a private citizen who has been falsely accused, you do not have to prove actual malice. Instead, you will only need to prove that the statements the defendant made were negligent. Negligence means that the defendant did not use reasonable care under the circumstances when trying to find out if the statements were false or not.
Texas also has defamation per se laws. These laws hold parties accountable for making false statements, regardless of other circumstances. There are many different examples of fake allegations that can constitute defamation per se, such as wrongly accusing a person of:
- Moral turpitude
- Criminal behaviors
- Having a loathsome disease
10. Seek Compensation for False Accusations
As mentioned above, it is illegal to make false accusations against another party in Texas. Depending on the facts in your case, you may be able to seek monetary compensation by filing a defamation lawsuit against the responsible party. Defamation is defined as a written or verbal statement that causes intentional harm to another person’s character. Texas has defamation laws that protect individuals and businesses from wrongful allegations that damage their reputations. To bring a defamation lawsuit, you will need to prove that the words said against you had the intent of encouraging contempt towards you or your company.
Defamation is not a crime. Rather, civil wrongdoing allows the victim to collect monetary rewards from the liable party. If the defendant published the defamation in a newspaper, on a website, on posters, or anywhere else, the defamation will be considered libel. Defamation that involves a verbal statement made against someone is considered slander.
Discuss Your Case With an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Navigating false statements in the legal world can be complicated. In many cases, there are high stakes involved. False accusations can lead to prison sentences and fines. They can also have a long-lasting, negative impact on your career, reputation, immigration status, family relationships, and more.
If you believe that you have been the victim of false accusations, you need to defend yourself. The most effective defense strategy is to hire a qualified criminal defense attorney. These legal experts represent all clients and can help you prevent another party from harming your reputation. Contact the Plano, Texas, attorneys at Wilder Law Firm as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation and learn more about your legal options.