Although law enforcement and prosecutors make the best judgments they can with the information they have, mistakes still happen, and innocent people are charged with crimes they didn’t commit.
There are numerous reasons, ranging from the innocuous, such as a reporting error on a form, to the more malicious, as is unfortunately sometimes the case.
What can you do if you find yourself in the unthinkable position of being falsely accused of a crime?
Understanding the Options
The first step is to consult a reputable criminal defense law firm. Whether you will need to retain them or not, they can at least give you sound counsel.
There are situations in which an attorney will think it appropriate to step in before charges are filed. They may get in contact with the law enforcement officer who handled the situation, or they might try to persuade the prosecutor not to go through with the filing.
While these tactics are not often successful, your attorney will decide if your case warrants this type of action.
The usual course of action is that the lawyer doesn’t get involved until the actual charges have been filed. This still doesn’t mean that the case will make it all the way trial.
Once the charges are filed, the attorney may decide that they need to begin gathering evidence and investigating right away. If the defense attorney can show that the incident couldn’t have happened the way it is described in the charges, the prosecutor may decide to dismiss the case altogether. On the other hand, the attorney may not want to give the prosecution too much information in the event the case does go to trial.
It may seem hard to do, but sometimes the best option is to let things play out. There are a couple of situations that can bring an end to the case while it’s still in the pre-trial phase:
- Insufficient evidence. Sometimes a case is thrown out because there isn’t enough evidence to convict. A witness may recant their story or the witnesses may not be believable.
- The defendant is successful in a pre-trial motion. In some cases, the defense comes out ahead in a preliminary hearing and the prosecution will decide against re-filing the complaint.
If your case is still moving forward at this juncture, keep in mind that you are innocent until proven guilty. This isn’t just a saying; rather it is a legal standard that the judge and jury must hold to. They are bound to view you as innocent until and unless the prosecution proves otherwise.
The prosecuting attorney must prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”, which is a high standard to meet. In fact, it is so high that the strategy of many defense attorneys is to focus on raising logical uncertainties that the prosecution cannot refute.