As a general rule, you cannot be accused of a crime or an immoral act, like having an affair, unless certain standards of evidence have been met. The rules vary in specifics but apply across print, broadcast media, and in the workplace.
Types of False Accusation:
You probably know the difference between libel and slander, but if not, when someone is defamed or falsely accused in broadcast or written form, it’s considered libel. If someone is falsely accused in spoken or oral form, that’s slander.
In addition, verbal and written statements present different legal challenges. Whether you are slandered or libeled, the outcome can be the same. In both situations you can be compensated for lost wages, mental anguish, and damage to your reputation.
A 2015 article in National Review quotes from a study showing that between 2% and 10% of rape allegations are probably false. In another 44% of alleged rapes the case does not proceed. Sometimes this is because the accuser becomes uncooperative or refuses to pursue the case. At that point, however, the accused has already suffered damage to reputation and career and mental anguish associated with those accusations.
Slander and libel laws protect people from being accused falsely of illegal or immoral conduct. While false accusations of rape and sexual assault get plenty of media attention, there are other situations where you may have a case for a civil suit:
- You are called a child predator in a YouTube video.
- A coworker accuses you of sexual harassment.
- A magazine editorial describes your alleged drug crimes as facts.
There are specific legal standards to meet in establishing civil liability. In short, you must prove that you have been damaged emotionally or financially by the charges. If that magazine piece causes you to lose a job, or clients for your professional services firm, then the grounds for a civil suit are good. An experienced attorney would need to examine the details of your case to determine if it meets the standard for a credible libel or slander suit.
Sometimes a vengeful person files charges they know are false, or they don’t know if the charges are true but they would be damaging to the accused. Anyone targeted by such civil or criminal charges is a victim of malicious prosecution. The law allows the accused to sue for financial damages if they are charged with a crime or sued for reasons that don’t have a factual basis. Malicious prosecution overlaps with false accusation, but false accusations don’t have to involve the police or the courts or a criminal or DUI lawyer Peoria IL relies on. Malicious prosecution involves civil or criminal courts.
Being sued or charged with a crime under false pretenses often imposes high costs on the accused. These malicious prosecutions and suits can ruin careers, impose high costs for civil or criminal defense, and cause emotional trauma as well as break up families. Unless the other party recants after legal proceedings begin, it can be tough to prove malicious intent and recover damages to cover the costs. However, if it can be shown the other party knew the charges were false, or probably false, then you might be able to sue and win.
Has your career or business suffered serious damage from false accusations? We may be able to win you compensation for the damage done. Contact us as soon as possible to discuss your case.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Smith & Weer, P.C. for their insights into false accusations.