False accusations occur more frequently than most people think. Especially when it comes to cases involving bitter divorces and child custody battles. Depending on the circumstances of the accusation, however, penalties range from a proverbial slap on the wrist to up to 20 years in prison. The penalties you may be facing for making false criminal accusations are largely dependent on your intent, what you accused someone of, and how you made the accusation.
Accidentally making a false accusation is not a crime. If you report in good faith that someone has committed a crime, you are not likely to face criminal prosecution even if that person did not, in fact, commit a crime. Of course, you may have to convince the court that your accusation was made in good faith. A MA defense lawyer can help if you find yourself in this situation. If, however, you cannot show that you reasonably believed the accusation to be true, you may find yourself criminally and civilly liable.
Was There Intent?
In MA, it is a misdemeanor to knowingly report false information to police. In addition to up to one year in jail, you may also face a civil lawsuit for falsely accusing another person of a crime. False accusations can result in emotional distress and suffering on the part of the person being accused. For these reasons, you could be facing punitive and compensatory damages for making a false accusation. Compensatory damages compensate victims for any losses they suffered due to your actions, while punitive damages are paid as a form of punishment.
When you falsely accuse another person of committing a crime, the legal claims you are most likely to face will be civil claims based on one of the following: malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, or defamation of character.
Accusations of Terrorism
In some cases, false accusations can carry felony charges. If you falsely accuse someone of terrorist activity, or of something serious and immediate enough to require urgent response from police, your punishment will be more severe. “Swatting” occurs when a SWAT team or other urgent response from law enforcement is necessitated. Penalties for this type of false accusation are much higher for two reasons: there is a greater chance that the civil rights of the accused will be violated if an urgent response occurs, and the cost of deploying a SWAT team or similar response is great. As such, false accusations involving terrorism may be punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Randomly making a false accusation about someone to a friend or acquaintance isn’t likely to result in criminal charges. When you make false accusations to law enforcement, however, you are likely to find yourself in hot water. A Boston defense attorney can help you determine the best legal strategy if you are facing these charges. Of course, as with all offenses, prior criminal history will factor heavily in the outcome of your case. Continue reading