As William Blackstone said “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” Unfortunately, in our society, there are plenty of innocent people who are not only accused of a crime they did not commit, but convicted and sent to prison—or even death row. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia cited an “approximate” error rate of 0.027 in a 2006 opinion, yet a new study found a false conviction rate of 4.1 percent among those sentenced to death.
It is theorized that if the false conviction rate for those on death row is 4.1 percent, then the false conviction rate for other crimes is much, much higher. These are very scary statistics. No one ever expects to be falsely accused of a crime. Such an accusation can completely rock your world, leading you to make mistakes which can be hard to overcome. Taking the proper steps immediately can make the difference between a tragic outcome and a positive one. Here are 10 things you need to know if you are falsely accused:
1. Take action immediately. Far too many people who are falsely accused are under the impression that if they just “wait it out,” the mistake will become obvious. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true. In fact, once the police and the prosecutor have their sights set on one person, they very often stop looking, and will stubbornly defend their reasoning to the bitter end. Hire a criminal defense attorney immediately!
2. Take your right to remain silent very seriously. Many people who are falsely accused feel that if they can just explain to the police what really happened, they will be allowed to go home. The Miranda warning states that anything you say can and will be used against you, and you should take that warning to heart. Police are trained to try and trip you up in order to prove your guilt. No matter how frightened you are, remain silent until your attorney arrives.
3. Never, ever allow an unwarranted search. Most innocent people feel they have nothing to hide, so when an officer asks if they can search a home or car, the innocent person is likely to say “Sure, go ahead.” Don’t, under any circumstances do this. If your case goes to trial, a search that is conducted with a search warrant and one that is conducted with a verbal “okay,” are treated very differently.
4. Make sure you have a mental “arrest plan” in place, even though you believe you could never, under any circumstances be arrested. Rather than being literally thrown to the wolves should an unexpected arrest occur, think about what you would do if the police came to your door and told you they were there to arrest you. Think about what you would say if you were called in and questioned about a crime. Having a plan of action makes it much less likely you will make serious errors should the worst case scenario occur.
5. In a threatening situation, be the first to dial 911. It is neither right nor fair, but in most cases, the person who dials 911 is the one who will be looked at as the victim, regardless of the circumstances. So, if a family or work situation turns ugly, be the first to pick up the phone and the first to give your version of the altercation to the police.
6. Never forget that the criminal justice system can be just as hard on the innocent as on the guilty. If you watch crime shows on television you may be under the assumption that all police, investigators, and prosecutors are in an eternal quest for truth and justice. In fact, the American criminal justice system has a goal of moving cases through as quickly as possible. This is done through the system of plea bargaining. Many people who are totally and completely innocent will accept a plea bargain because they have been told if they don’t, they will go to trial and the consequences could be much worse.
7. You could well be the most innocent person in America, yet if you are charged with a crime, you will be treated as a guilty person—even when the facts and evidence don’t support your charges. Even those who are acquitted can find it extremely difficult to get the newspaper to run a story announcing their innocence—in the same way the newspaper likely ran a story announcing their guilt.
8. Don’t fall for the theory that if you hire an attorney you must be guilty. An attorney will protect your rights and be the person in your corner who will fight for your innocence and your freedom.
9. Don’t skimp on your attorney fees. Your attorney may be the one person who can change the outcome of your charges, so save money anywhere you can, and hire the most experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney you can.
10.Be ready to be on an emotional roller coaster that feels as though it will never end. The wheels of justice turn very slowly. If your case cannot be resolved before trial, you could easily spend two or more years with this dark cloud hanging over your head. Motions will fly back and forth, and you may make numerous appearances in court with your attorney, but it can literally take years to actually prove your innocence.
Contact Our Boulder Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you or someone you love has been wrongly accused of a crime, you need an attorney on your side that can take swift action to protect your freedom. Contact the Boulder criminal defense lawyers at Steven Louth Law Offices today for a free consultation and review of your case. Call us at (303) 422-2297 to start building a solid defense against these serious criminal charges. We can protect your rights and safeguard your future.