|CRIMINAL DEFENSE - Frequently Asked Questions|
|II.||THE CRIMINAL DEFENSE PROCESS||IV.||FELONIES||VI.||YOUR RIGHTS|
More often than you might think, the wrong person goes to jail for a crime. Although such cases are relatively rare, they do occur—and an innocent person suffers while a guilty person goes free. If you are falsely accused of a crime, the best way to protect your rights and ensure that your innocence is established is to seek the assistance of a criminal defense attorney. A skilled attorney can deal with the complications of the legal system in order to protect your rights and work for a fair outcome.
Your case will not be treated differently if you are falsely accused. Do not assume that because you are innocent, you will not need the help of an attorney. You may actually need an attorney more, in this case. In some cases, a falsely accused person will plead guilty to a lesser offense. Often, this allows people to avoid risking conviction and a jail sentence by going to trial. Obviously, many innocent people refuse to handle their cases in this fashion. An experienced lawyer can help to explain your case and tell you the benefits and disadvantages of taking actions like these.
If you are successful in proving your innocence, you may be able to file a lawsuit and recover damages from the individual who brought charges. You can sue a private citizen for making a false criminal charge or complaint. You can also sue a government law enforcement officer, in this case for false imprisonment or a civil rights violation. These lawsuits are called Section 1983 actions.
You can recover actual injuries, such as lost wages, attorney fees, damage to reputation, and other real costs incurred as a result of the accusation. It is also sometimes possible to recover punitive damages, which punishes the person for making a false accusation and discourages others from doing likewise. In order to win a case and prove a false accusation has been made, the plaintiff must show that the charge was dismissed, that the defendant was responsible for causing the charges to be made, and that the charges cannot be reasonably explained. It is not enough to merely prove that charges were dropped.
Again, the best way to protect your rights and understand your situation is to seek the help of a defense attorney. The most important consideration is finding an attorney with expertise and experience in criminal defense. Your reputation, your future, and possibly your life hang in the balance; you should get the best legal assistance you possibly can.