Updated on April 27, 2023
People sometimes make false accusations, and it can lead to devastating results. The high drama and stress of especially contentious divorces, for example, can lead to spiteful accusations with little or no bearing in reality. There are many motivations for making false accusations, but none are acceptable.
If you have been falsely accused of a crime in Texas, you should not wait to consult with an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney.
Being Charged with a Crime
Being charged with a crime that you did not commit can still lead to severe consequences that include a decrease in your social standing, which can be challenging to come back from.
Too many people believe that wrongful accusations will correct themselves and fail to take a proactive stance as a result. While you are innocent until proven guilty, the stain of an accusation is not something you should take lightly.
Reaching out to consult with a dedicated criminal defense attorney early on is always in your best interest.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
In order to be convicted of a crime in Texas, the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a very high legal bar.
Beyond a reasonable doubt in this context translates to a level of doubt held by the trier of fact – either a jury or the presiding judge – that would make a reasonable person hesitate to act. As such, the prosecution must convince the jury (or judge if it is a bench trial) that there is no other reasonable explanation other than the defendant’s guilt.
In civil cases, the burden of proof is considerably lower. The prosecution requires a preponderance of evidence to convict someone of a civil charge. This preponderance of the evidence standard means that there is a greater than 50 percent chance that the charge is true – or it is more likely than not that the charge is true.
While there is no specific percentage of chance associated with beyond a reasonable doubt, those legal authorities who do assign a number tend to use percentages in the high 90s.
If the prosecution can demonstrate that there is no plausible explanation other than the accused’s guilt, the burden of proof related to beyond a reasonable doubt is met. If, however, after careful consideration of all the evidence, the jury has lingering doubt, this high standard is not reached.
It is important to note that the burden of proof always rests squarely on the prosecution. In fact, the defendant is not required to prove anything. However, bringing your strongest defense remains critical.
Although you are innocent until proven guilty, a proactive defense is the best defense – and demonstrating your innocence can go a long way toward discrediting the prosecution’s theories.
Challenging False Accusations
In order to challenge false accusations, you will need to either claim innocence in relation to all charges or demonstrate that you committed the act in question but there is a specific reason you are not criminally responsible for doing so.
If you have been accused of a specific criminal act, your first line of defense may be having an alibi, which is a reason why you could not have committed the crime in question.
For example, if the crime occurred on a Thursday evening, and you were dining with business acquaintances in a distant town at that time, you will have several credible people vouching for your whereabouts. This situation likely amounts to a solid alibi that proves you did not commit the crime in question.
If, however, you were home alone watching TV at the time the crime was committed, it can be far more difficult to establish your alibi.
A good way to flesh out your alibi is by writing down absolutely everything you can remember regarding the critical time in question – you never know what will ultimately prove important to your defense. The same is true when identifying eyewitnesses who may be able to corroborate your alibi or position or may share information that impeaches evidence against you.
People are often falsely accused due to false testimony – rather than being falsely accused intentionally. Our memories are not as ironclad as most of us believe and can even play tricks on us.
Witnesses are often convinced their testimonies are the truth when, in reality, their memories regarding the matter are warped in one way or another. In such a situation, it is critical that you dispute the testimony to the degree possible. The false memories of a credible witness will need to be disproved – or doubt will need to be cast on their veracity.
Science continues to bolster our understanding of how memories work, which helps to shine a brighter light on the phenomenon of false and distorted memories and related testimony.
According to the Innocence Project, mistaken identifications from eyewitnesses played a role in almost 70 percent of the more than 375 wrongful convictions that have been overturned by DNA evidence in the United States. Unfortunately, an inaccurate identification can guide a case from the outset, which sets the stage for a wrongful conviction in all the following ways:
Time is lost.
Valuable evidence can be lost.
Police become distracted by the information at hand and lose sight of the bigger picture.
In spite of the statistics that support the inaccuracy of eyewitness testimony in relation to current ID procedures, such testimony continues to transfix juries and win cases.
Sometimes, people purposefully provide the police with false information. Their motivations can be protecting the actual culprit, exacting a personal vendetta against the accused, seeking attention, or causing drama. Highly contentious divorces, for example, sometimes lead to highly inflammatory but false accusations.
Justification for Committing Crimes
Perhaps you committed the act you have been accused of, but you had a justified reason for doing so. Certain justifications nullify criminal responsibility. Primary examples of justification include the following motives:
You were defending someone else from harm.
You were protecting your property.
You were protecting someone else’s property.
You were acting out of public duty.
You were acting out of necessity.
Consult with a criminal defense lawyer to determine if you can use one of these justifications as part of your defense strategy.
If someone else is attempting to harm you via illegal force, you are generally justified in employing force to protect yourself. The reasonable use of force can be presumed when you did nothing to provoke the other person’s use of force and did not otherwise engage in criminal activity.
Here are some situations in which the reasonable use of force can be presumed:
The other person was using force to enter or attempt to enter your home, vehicle, or place of work.
The other person was using force to remove or attempt to remove you from your home, vehicle, or place of work.
It’s important to note that the verbal provocations of someone else generally won’t meet the level necessary to support self-defense. Further, provoking someone else into using force against you will likely negate any claim of self-defense.
If you are being arrested by someone you know to be a police officer, self-defense is unlikely to qualify as a valid defense against resistance. However, using force to resist an arrest in which the officer was using undue force may be considered justified.
Finally, stepping in to protect others when their own use of force as self-defense would have been justified can also be used as a legal justification for the use of force.
No Requirement of Retreat
In Texas, you are generally not required to retreat before implementing justified force in defense of one’s self or property as long as the following conditions apply:
You are on the property in question legally.
You are not engaged in a criminal act yourself.
You did not provoke the other person’s use of force in the first place.
Failing to retreat, however, may affect whether your use of force is considered reasonably necessary.
If you reasonably believe the act in question is necessary in order to uphold the law, is authorized by the law, or is in keeping with the execution of the legal process, it may be legally justified.
Your conduct may also be justified if you reasonably believed that it was immediately necessary to protect yourself or someone else from imminent harm. In order to be deemed necessary, the urgency of avoiding the potential harm in question must outweigh the harm that is likely to be caused.
Proving False Allegations
In order to prove that someone falsely accused you of a crime, you will need to prove to the court that they did so purposefully. Not all false allegations are malicious, but when they are, you can seek compensation for the losses you experience as a result.
It is important to point out that eyewitness testimony is notoriously suspect, but it is generally based on the eyewitness’s belief in the veracity of their statements.
If your accuser incorrectly but honestly believes you are the person who committed the crime in question, you have no case against them. On the other hand, if the person who presses a charge against you knows that you are not guilty but is motivated by self-serving interest, the false accusation is illegal.
Often, the steps taken to falsely accuse you of a crime are actually crimes within themselves. Consider the following criminal actions your accuser may have employed.
A False Police Report
If the person who falsely accused you of the crime in question did so with intent and produced a police report in the process, it amounts to lying to a police officer, which is a crime in the State of Texas. The crime of making a false police report is a Class B misdemeanor, and a conviction comes with fines of up to $2,000 and a sentence of up to 180 days behind bars.
If the person who falsely accused you lied under oath, the charge of perjury – or even aggravated perjury – can apply. A perjury conviction is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries fines of up to $4,000 and a jail sentence of up to 180 days.
Aggravated perjury refers to making false material allegations in the course of an official proceeding, such as a trial. The “material” designation has to do with whether the information affects the proceeding’s outcome. Aggravated perjury is a third-degree felony, and a conviction carries fines of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Bearing false witness or making false accusations can come in many forms and can lead to a wide range of charges – beyond lying to the police and perjury. Consider the following examples of criminal actions employed in manipulating court proceedings:
Making false reports about missing people
Falsifying government records
Filing false financial statements
If someone has falsely accused you of a crime – whether intentionally or mistakenly – bringing your strongest defense from the outset is imperative.
In addition to criminal charges, you may have a civil path toward justice in response to wrongful allegations. Consult with a criminal defense attorney to see if a civil case is a good path forward for you.
The most common form of civil lawsuit in this context is defamation, which refers to making false statements about someone that are capable of damaging the person's overall reputation. In your quest for justice, you can seek compensation for your emotional pain and suffering, lost earnings, and attorney fees.
Both libel and slander are forms of defamation.
Libel refers to written accusations that are not only known to be false but are also intended to inflict harm.
Slander refers to verbal statements that are known to be false and that were intended to harm the slandered person’s reputation, overall standing in the community, or career.
If you have been charged with a crime you did not commit, it is important to work closely with your focused Killeen criminal defense attorney throughout the pretrial investigation.
During this process, you will build your case to defend your innocence. This process involves gathering all the available evidence, including any exculpatory evidence – or evidence that tends to support your innocence – the prosecution may have.
The stronger your case, the more likely it is that your attorney will be able to have the charge against you dropped or reduced.
The evidence you gather may focus on bolstering your alibi or disproving the charge in some other way and can include collecting all the following forms of evidence that apply to your case:
Receipts with locations and dates that are associated with purchases you made or actions you took, such as sales receipts and travel receipts
Statements from credible eyewitnesses that support your alibi or otherwise discredit the charge
Photos depicting you at a specific time and date
Clothing and other tangible objects that serve as evidence in support of your position in one way or another
Your attorney will carefully examine all the prosecution’s evidence to ensure not only that it is relevant and valid but also that it was obtained in accordance with the law. There are important rules and regulations that guide how evidence must be collected and stored, and when these are not scrupulously followed, it can render the evidence inadmissible in court.
Impeaching Your Accuser
If someone has falsely accused you – either intentionally or by mistake – it is important to impeach your accuser, his or her testimony, or both. Impeachment means demonstrating that the accuser or the testimony is unreliable or not credible in some relevant way.
For example, if the person accusing you is your neighbor who has serious beef with you regarding a property dispute, this could bolster your claim that the charge is based on a vendetta rather than on the facts.
Consider the following factors that may mean accusers are unreliable:
They have a history of falsely accusing people of crimes.
Their testimony has glaring inconsistencies.
They have demonstrated that their memory is unreliable.
They have a demonstrable motive for falsely accusing the defendant.
They lack any credible evidence of the defendant’s guilt.
They were pushed to make a statement under duress.
Often cases of false accusation come down to one person’s word against the other’s, which makes gathering any and all evidence that may serve to discredit your accuser paramount. Your attorney will carefully pour over the witness statements in your case in an effort to establish their level of truthfulness.
Skip These Practices
If you have been falsely accused of a crime, there are certain things you should not do to give your case the best possible chance of reaching a positive resolution.
If you have evidence that you believe harms your position, do not give in to the impulse to destroy it. Doing so will almost certainly come back to haunt you. Further, purposefully destroying evidence is against the law, which can bring yet another charge. You aren’t required to point out evidence that implicates you, but destroying it is almost certain to backfire.
If you have evidence that is not in your favor, your best course of action is to share it with your attorney. He or she will take the necessary steps to help mitigate any damage that it may cause.
It’s also important to remember that evidence you believe will work against you may end up not having much weight in the final analysis. Your attorney needs access to all available evidence, including the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Contacting Your Accuser
If someone has accused you of committing a crime you did not commit, you may think that the best approach is contacting the person and figuring out the problem together, but you would be wrong.
The person who accused you of committing a crime likely believes that you are guilty, and contacting them is not going to do you any favors. Even if the person has falsely accused you intentionally, they will use your attempts to get in touch against you.
Once the matter leads to a criminal charge, your interaction with your accuser should cease. This includes refraining from all the following forms of contact:
Calling the person
Contacting the person electronically
Attempting to meet up with the person
Posting anything about the person on social media – or anywhere else online
Drawing a hard line on this point is in the best interest of your case. Contact with your accuser can lead to enhanced charges and should be strictly avoided.
Discussing Your Case with the Police or Prosecutor without Your Attorney Present
While speaking with the police or the prosecution may seem like a good idea at the time, it decidedly is not. Whoever is interviewing you is focused on tripping you up and obtaining statements that harm your case, and you can count on them being good at it.
It is your Fifth Amendment right not to take the witness stand and testify at your own trial. While you know you are innocent and are well prepared to demonstrate this fact to the jury, the prosecution will be standing in wait – ready to twist your words and leave even you confused regarding what the truth actually is.
Often, defendants are better off not taking the stand, but there are exceptions to every rule. Generally, the best defense strategy is allowing the prosecution to outline their case and using all the available evidence to poke holes in it.
Your Lawyer Will Champion Your Rights
One of the most important means of fighting false allegations is knowing your legal rights and defending them accordingly. Your savvy Killeen criminal defense attorney will help to ensure that you understand the charge brought against you, know your legal rights in relation to the charge, prepare yourself to participate in your defense strategy, and bring your strongest defense.
An Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a focused criminal defense attorney with the experience and legal drive to help you beat a false accusation. Our trusted legal team takes great pride in its impressive record of zealously defending our clients’ legal rights – in support of their proven innocence.