What to do if you are wrongly accused of a crime

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The recent hit television drama, The Night Of, told the story of the ruining of a young man’s life when he is wrongly accused of murder and ends up being swallowed whole by the criminal justice system. Although the story was a work of pure fiction, such accusations can and do happen in real life and the financial and personal consequences can be every bit as those depicted on screen, even if the crime is a relatively minor one.

Although few people ever assume their house will catch fire or their car will be stolen, they still take out insurance just in case. Although you may never be the victim of a false accusation, it’s a good idea to have some kind of plan in place so your mind can rest easy. Read on to learn some of the key issues to keep in mind.

Don’t delay

When faced with a false accusation you may be tempted to sit back and do nothing, relying on the fact you are innocent and hoping that everything will eventually resolve itself. This is never a good idea. You need to immediately and directly take stock of the situation and hire legal representation so that you can benefit from professional advice every step of the way.

In some cases, the party that files the first report in a case ends up being viewed as the victim rather than the perpetrator so the sooner you are able to take action and put your side of the story across, the more likely you are to have the outcome you desire.

Say nothing

When hit with a false accusation, your natural instinct is likely to want to explain your side of the story right away. This is especially true if the accusation comes out of the blue and you find yourself arrested or served with papers without any notice. Saying anything at all under such circumstances can often be a mistake as the stress of such a situation can lead to things being said or mistakes being made that can then be used against you at a later date. You have a constitutional right to silence and it is best to take full advantage of it.

This also applies if the person being accused of the crime is a friend or loved one. You may think you are being helpful by giving your view and insisting that no crime has been committed, but you could actually end up making things worse. Wait until you have spoken to a lawyer only then should you decide whether you want to make a statement.

Get it all on paper

If you know you are innocent and feel you have nothing to hide, you might be inclined to let the police search your home without a warrant, convinced that the more you cooperate with the authorities, the more likely they are to realize their mistake. As with speaking out before you have had the chance to talk to a lawyer, this is a mistake.

Insisting on a search warrant allows your attorney to learn exactly what the police are looking for and also gives you a solid paper trail to follow. In fact, keeping documentation of every aspect of your case is crucial as you never know what might prove to be useful later on. It’s also a good idea to record all conversations between yourself and anyone involved with the case, especially if there is a chance they might end up being called as witnesses either for or against you at some point in the future.

Hire the best possible lawyer

If you watch a lot of crime drama on television, you may be left feeling that the very act of insisting on hiring a lawyer to represent you somehow implies guilt. In reality, it is innocent people who most benefit from the assistance of an experienced lawyer. The way the judicial system works, accusations will only be made if the police feel they have enough evidence to suggest guilt and you will be treated as such.

If you are innocent and have little or no experience of the workings of the legal world, you will find yourself acting like a visitor to a foreign country where you do not speak the language and have no guide book. An attorney will be able to help you learn more about the accusations that have been made against you and deal with the many obstacles that need to be overcome in order to prove your innocence.

Proving that you are innocent is never going to be cheap but you’ll pay a far higher price if you end up being convicted of the crime for which you are wrongfully accused. You not only want to hire the best attorney you can afford but also one with a significant amount of experience in dealing with the particular crime. You need to be prepared to dig deep and make sacrifices in every other area of your life or even go into debt. Remember, if you end up in jail, you won’t be able to work while you are there and even if your sentence is short, getting back into the labor market afterwards will be even more challenging.

Although you may eventually be able to prove your innocence, you could end up spending all of your best years behind bars. With the right attorney on your side, your chances of being exonerated of all the charges against you at a much earlier stage are considerably improved.

Consider suing for compensation

Once your case is over and your innocence has been established, you may find it difficult to get your life back on track regardless. You may have spent tens of thousands of dollars on legal fees and other court costs and you may have lost the trust and respect of friends and even family members. There may be some people in your life who, despite the verdict, believe you were guilty of the crime of which you were accused.

One way to help rebuild a tarnished reputation is to sue for compensation. In addition to making up for some of the lost earnings that you might have suffered as a result of your ordeal, such a case can also bring official acknowledgement of the errors that led to you being wrongfully accused in the first place.

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