Few things can destroy a person’s life more than being falsely accused of committing a crime. When the police approach and ask you questions, explaining that someone accused you of stealing money from the cash register at work, what can you do? You know you’re innocent, so should you tell your side of the story immediately?
The simple answer is: Absolutely not. Here are some guidelines for conducting yourself when accused of a crime you did not commit.
Don’t try to explain yourself
Don’t say anything—to anyone. Never forget that anything you say can—and will—be used against you. Don’t try to explain yourself to the police. Keep in mind it’s easy to make a comment that can be misconstrued later by a skilled prosecutor. As harsh as this sounds, refrain from discussing the incident with your friends and family. They may have your best interests at heart, but your statements to them are not privileged, and they could be compelled to testify against you later.
Don’t permit searches without a warrant
With few exceptions, the police cannot search your property without a warrant. You may feel obligated to give permission, feeling that you have nothing to hide, but this cooperative mindset can backfire. If the police have a warrant, then it regulates what they can and cannot do during a search. When you consent, these rules don’t necessarily apply. So the simple answer is: Do not consent to a search of you or your property, unless there is a search warrant.
Contact a criminal defense attorney immediately
A criminal defense attorney is the only person you should be speaking to about your case. Once you speak to them (a conversation protected by attorney-client privilege), they can advise you on the best way to deal with the false accusations and protect you from incriminating yourself during conversations with the police. They can also negotiate with the prosecutor to get the charges dropped, especially if there is no real evidence against you.
Do not accept plea bargains
If you are charged with the alleged offense, you may be offered a plea bargain. You may be tempted to accept, especially if the case has been dragging on for weeks and the punishment is milder than what you would face if convicted of the original offense. Remember that by accepting a plea bargain, you are admitting guilt. You could be fined, sent to jail, and be left to deal with a criminal record. Make sure you speak to your attorney about every and all options before you decide what is best for you.
Consider a civil suit
If the charges against you are dropped due to lack of evidence, then you could have a civil claim against the person who made the accusation. If successful, a civil suit can not only provide you with repayment for your suffering, but can also assist in “clearing” your name.