Is Making a False Accusation a Crime?

Criminal Defense Attorney

If an individual reports a crime in good faith and later turns out to be mistaken in their assessment of the situation at hand, it is unlikely that their behavior will be treated as a false accusation by law enforcement officials. However, when individuals intentionally make false accusations of significant criminal behavior, both serious criminal and practical consequences may result from those decisions.

Criminal Consequences of Making a False Accusation

If someone falsely accuses his or her next-door neighbor of stealing that person’s trash cans and no such theft occurred, the criminal consequences associated with this poor judgment are likely to be minimal. But if an individual falsely accuses another person of committing abuse, neglect, a sex crime, a drug crime, a violent crime, a serious white collar crime, terrorism or another significant criminal offense, the accuser may face serious criminal consequences as a result.

Most states treat false accusations of criminal behavior as a misdemeanor. But there are instances in which false accusations can lead to even more significant criminal and civil liability. Depending on the details of the false accusation, the accuser could face jail time, fines, significant community service requirements, mandatory counseling and a permanent criminal record.

Practical Consequences of Making a False Accusation

It is important to understand that in addition to potential criminal consequences, making a false accusation may result in practical consequences as well. For example, if one parent falsely accuses his or her child’s other parent of abusive or neglectful behavior in order to prevail in a child custody hearing, the parent who falsely accused the other may lose primary custody of the affected child. Family law judges do not take false accusations lightly, partially because behaving in this way tends to illustrate that the guilty parent is more concerned with getting his or her way than with seeking a just outcome to the case. Sometimes, parents who are desperate to protect their children from an abusive or neglectful former romantic partner will utter false accusations in an attempt to keep those kids safely away from the other parent. But it is a far better idea to share safety concerns with an experienced family law attorney in order to craft a strong legal custody strategy that is grounded in the truth.  

Legal Guidance Is Available

If you have either made a false accusation against someone or have been falsely accused of criminal behavior, it is important to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Once an attorney understands the details surrounding your situation, he or she will be able to advise you of your legal options and help to mitigate any damage that has already been done. In addition, after crafting a strong legal strategy, an attorney may be able to help you mitigate any additional negative consequences that may have yet to manifest. Accusations of criminal behavior are serious business and should not be handled lightly. Please consider connecting with an experienced criminal defense attorney Fairfax, VA offers at your earliest possible convenience in order to address the situation at hand.

Thank you to our friends and contributors at Dave Albo – Attorney for their insight into criminal law and false accusations.