No one thinks they’ll be falsely accused of a crime. But it happens, and probably more often than you think.
While it’s hard to ascertain a precise figure, according to the 2019 report by the National Registry of Exonerations, the percentage of wrongful convictions is somewhere between 2% and 10%. At first glance, maybe this could reflect a reasonable margin of error. But when you realize there are over 2.3 million people incarcerated in the U.S., this means anywhere from 46,000 to 230,000 people are wrongfully imprisoned.
Any number of systemic failures, including police misconduct, faulty evidence, misidentification, perjury, or forced confessions, can lead to wrongful accusations and, when left unchecked – undeserved convictions.
Being falsely accused of any crime is devastating, and the damage to your reputation is only the beginning. Luckily, you can fight unfair charges and resolve things with the right legal strategy as long as you act fast.
As advocates for the wrongfully accused, if you or a loved one have been falsely accused, the Columbus criminal defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck, and Associates can help. Contact LHA at (614) 500-3836 or use our online form for a free consultation.
6 Things to Do ASAP If You’ve Been Unjustly Accused
As soon as you realize that you are being investigated for a crime you did not commit, you need to take action. These are the things you should do right away.
1. Hire an Attorney
Too often, innocent defendants don’t get a lawyer until it is too late because they assume that their innocence will be apparent. Other times, they believe that getting a defense attorney makes them look guilty. Unfortunately, the opposite is true.
The innocent need legal protections more than the guilty, especially early in the investigation. False confessions and abusive tactics to extract admissions are a huge problem when someone has been wrongfully accused.
If you’re falsely accused of a crime, you need to make sure an experienced criminal defense lawyer protects your rights and pressures the police to continue investigating. A lawyer is better suited to explain a misunderstanding or present evidence in the right way. Otherwise, the truth may never come out.
2. Assert Your Right to Remain Silent.
When you’re falsely accused of a crime, it’s tempting to declare your innocence to anyone who will listen. You want to tell your side of the story. Sadly, any inconsistencies in your story will only make you look even more guilty to law enforcement. Additionally, your statement may come back to haunt you in some other way since the police are known to misconstrue what you say or twist your words.
Take advantage of your Constitutional right to remain silent and don’t give any statement or answer police questions until you’ve spoken with an attorney.
3. Decline Voluntary Searches or Testing.
Even if you know a DNA sample or search of your home should only make your innocence clearer if you’ve been falsely accused of a crime, you never know what police will find. Plus, making police get a valid warrant will better ensure all rules are followed.
Unless it is court-ordered, you have the right to decline any searches or tests—and you should, at least in the early stages.
4. Gather Evidence, But Don’t Destroy Anything
While you shouldn’t consent to a search without a warrant, you should be keeping any evidence you may have because you may have more than you thought. After you’ve been wrongly accused of a crime, gather all relevant evidence in one place and share it with your lawyer. They can help present it to the police in a way that will help you the most.
That said, resist the urge to destroy any evidence that you think may show you in a bad light. If you are innocent, the evidence is probably not as damning as you may think, and if you destroy it, that will only make you look guilty.
5. Don’t Contact the Victim or Witnesses.
If someone accuses you of a crime, it may seem like a good idea to talk to the person so that you can work things out. Unfortunately, this could complicate matters even more.
You also could be accused of trying to intimidate them. If you believe you can sort things out with the person, talk about the idea with your defense lawyer first. They can often help you work out a plan that best protects you.
6. Recognize that Being Innocent Isn’t Enough.
When you’ve been charged with a crime, law enforcement has decided you are guilty—and you’ll be treated as such. The innocent should have an easier time dealing with the criminal justice system, but that’s not the reality. You will probably have difficulty proving your innocence, so you should be prepared for a long fight.
These steps should help protect you from making your situation even more severe than it already is. But the best thing you can do to improve things is work out a strategy with an experienced criminal attorney dedicated to clearing your name.
What’s the Good News?
While false accusations and wrongful convictions are still a problem, the system is beginning to identify the problem and take corrective steps. Exonerations have risen steadily in recent years. Usually stemming from new DNA evidence, as of January 2020, the Innocence Project has documented over 365 DNA exonerations in the U.S.
The higher rate of exonerations can likely be attributed to the recent scrutiny placed on prosecutors and overall inequity in the justice system.
For instance, higher-profile cases for violent crimes like unjust murder and sexual assault convictions stood the best chance of being overturned. Still, now conviction review units are being utilized for crimes like drug offenses, especially since faulty field tests have started to face challenges for misidentifying legal substances, leading to who knows how many false charges across the country.
Need a Columbus Lawyer? Contact LHA 24/7
If you have been accused of a crime that you didn’t commit, we know how stressed and scared you probably feel. The Columbus defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck, and Associates are available 24/7 to help.
Call LHA at 614-304-3402 to set up your free and confidential consultation about proving your innocence.