What to Do When You Are Falsely Accused of a Crime in California
Whether you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time or someone has decided to ruin your reputation, false accusations could upend your life. If false accusations lead to a conviction, you could spend decades behind bars for a crime you never committed.
You might not get a chance to re-open your case even if new evidence rises to the surface. You must understand your rights and know what to do when falsely accused to avoid joining the growing population of wrongfully convicted individuals in California prisons.
How Common Are False Accusations?
Despite what many believe, the justice system puts many innocent individuals behind bars. There have been more than 3,000 exonerations since 1989. Researchers estimate thousands of wrongfully convicted inmates are currently sitting in prisons across the United States.
The National Registry of Exonerations states that 233 people were exonerated of crimes they didn’t commit last year and lost 2,245 years to wrongful incarceration.
In California, there have been 282 exonerations since 1989. A total of 2,216 years were lost to wrongful incarceration. On average, wrongfully convicted individuals lost 7.9 years to imprisonment.
Many prosecutors have established Conviction Integrity Units to prevent and identify wrongful convictions. These units secured 60% of exonerations in the U.S. in 2021. The growing number of exonerations sheds light on this country’s alarming issue of false accusations.
Most Common Crimes Individuals Are Falsely Accused of
You might be accused of any number of offenses. Since 1989, inmates have been wrongfully incarcerated for the following crimes:
- Murder – 34% of exonerees were convicted of murder. Five people even faced death sentences
- Sexual Assault – 4% were convicted of sexual assault
- Child Sex Abuse – 14% were convicted of child sex abuse
- Robbery – 6% were robbery convictions
- Drug Crimes – 11% were drug crimes
- Other – All remaining exonerations were convictions of other miscellaneous offenses
Reasons for False Accusations
You might be falsely accused of a crime in California for many reasons. The accusations might have been made in good faith, or your accuser had malicious intentions. Recent exoneration data showed the common reasons for false accusations were:
- Mistaken identification – California exonerated 29 individuals because their identity was mistaken for the perpetrator. This resulted in 187 total years lost to wrongful incarceration.
- False Confession – Police may coerce individuals into confessing to a crime they never committed. The National Registry of Exonerations stated that one former inmate was exonerated after discovering he falsely confessed to a crime. A corrupt detective had threatened him. Two exonerees were convicted due to false confessions.
- Flawed Forensic Evidence – Faulty forensics is another reason so many are wrongly accused in the United States. Crime scene investigators might find boot marks matching your shoe size or fingerprints. This evidence is not scientifically validated and could result in an unfair trial. Ten exonerees were falsely accused based on flawed forensic evidence.
- Perjury/False accusation – Witnesses might intentionally make false statements to the court to obtain a conviction. This was the case with 27 wrongfully imprisoned individuals.
- Official Misconduct – Police misconduct could include providing false statements, tampering with evidence, or coercing the accused into false confessions. Six exonerees were falsely accused due to police misconduct, resulting in 26 total years lost.
Racial Disparities & False Accusations
Today, studies have recognized how the systemic issue of race in the United States has contributed to false accusations that led to wrongful convictions. A 2022 report from the National Registry of Exonerations stated that African Americans are 13.6% of the U.S. population, yet they make up more than half of exonerations. The study states that many Black defendants were wrongfully convicted of drug crimes due to police misconduct.
Your Rights As the Accused
Just because you’re accused of a crime doesn’t mean you go straight to jail. You still have rights, including:
- Right to an attorney – You have the right to receive adequate representation in your case. If you cannot afford a private attorney, the court may appoint an attorney. However, a private attorney can provide the dedication your case deserves.
- Right to a speedy trial – This right prevents wrongful incarceration by prohibiting unreasonable delays and giving the accused the best chance to defend themselves.
- Right to a public trial – This right helps to prevent perjury and misconduct that could impact your case and ensures a fair trial
- Right to a jury trial – Having a jury trial of your peers protects you from corrupt judges and prosecutors. A trial allows others to make the final decision regarding your case
- Right to remain silent – You are well within your right to wait for your attorney to answer any questions regarding your case to protect yourself from self-incrimination
- Right to confront witnesses from the prosecution – This allows you to appear at trial to confront witness testimony and cross-examine witnesses
What to Do if You’re Falsely Accused
When falsely accused, you must tread carefully to avoid a conviction. Follow these steps:
- Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney – When you’re falsely accused of a crime, you need to call a criminal defense attorney. They will handle any questions that come your way and prevent you from self-incrimination.
- Remain Silent – Remember, you have the right to remain silent, and anything you say can be used against you in court. Although you may be understandably frustrated by these charges, you must stay calm to avoid worsening the situation.
- Gather Evidence – It’s the prosecutor’s job to prove your guilt, but you can gather evidence to discredit their claims. You can use things like receipts to show where you were while the alleged crime was committed.
- Conduct a Pre-File Investigation – Your defense lawyer can conduct a pre-file investigation before the prosecutor files formal charges. This investigation allows your attorney to interview witnesses, perform background checks, and gather other forms of evidence that support your innocence.
- Present Evidence At Trial – Your attorney will showcase evidence to discredit the accuser during trial. They may call witnesses to provide testimony that reveals the accuser’s history of making malicious claims.
Call Morris Law if You Were Falsely Accused
False accusations could jeopardize your freedom. Without the proper defense, you could be one of the many wrongfully convicted individuals serving time for crimes they never committed. Morris Law knows your life is on the line. We will give your case the time and dedication it deserves.
Contact our office today by calling (510) 225-9955 to schedule your free consultation with attorney Seth Morris.