What Should I Do if I Was Wrongly Accused of a Crime in Pennsylvania?

Your entire life could be derailed when someone falsely accuses you of a crime, with your reputation, career, and home life negatively impacted. Unfortunately, false accusations are common. However, if this has happened to you, you are not powerless and could have legal recourse.

If you are wondering what to do if you were wrongly accused of a crime in Pennsylvania, consider contacting an experienced attorney as soon as possible for your protection. Morgan & Morgan is here to help. We could clear your name, restore your reputation, and fight for the compensation you deserve after getting wrongly accused of a crime. Contact us today for free legal help and advice. 

Reasons for False Accusations

While there can be various reasons why a person may be falsely accused of a crime, some of the most common include: 

Malicious False Accusations

A malicious false accusation occurs when the accuser deliberately lies to authorities about another person committing a crime. Malicious accusations can arise in numerous circumstances, such as acrimonious relationship splits or divorces and in disputes about finances or child custody. 

Mistaken Identity

False accusations can occur when the victim of a crime misidentifies the perpetrator and, as a result, accuses an innocent person. Misidentification can occur at police line-ups, for example.

Misrecollection

The victim of a crime or witnesses may be in emotional distress, unable to correctly recall what happened. As a result, the wrong person could end up accused of a crime.

Official Misconduct

In some cases, police officers or persons employed in the justice system make mistakes or abuse their power, which can lead to arresting and charging the wrong person.

Unclear Forensic Evidence

To make a quick arrest, experts may exaggerate the impact of any forensic evidence collected at a crime scene even if the evidence is ambiguous or unclear. 

What You Can Do if Falsely Accused of a Crime

Being accused of a crime you did not commit in Pennsylvania can have serious repercussions for your future. Therefore, your first step should be contacting an attorney as soon as possible for help and advice. Depending on your case, other actions can include:

Gather Evidence

Try to collect any evidence available regarding the incident in question, such as:

  • Photos and videos
  • Clothing
  • Documents and emails relating to the incident
  • Phone and GPS records showing your location at the time of the incident

Contact Witnesses 

If there are any witnesses to the alleged crime or anyone who has information about the victim and false accusations, ensure to get their contact details. 

Being falsely accused of a crime can be exceedingly stressful and upsetting. However, ensure to focus on the two main actions that serve to protect you: contacting an attorney and preserving evidence of your innocence. 

You Could File a Civil Lawsuit and Recover Damages 

Accusing another of a crime they did not commit is not a trivial matter and can have disastrous consequences for the victim. Being accused of a crime can lead to job loss, destroyed relationships with family and friends, and divorces. However, if you were negatively impacted by false accusations, you could file a lawsuit and qualify for damages. Depending on the details of your case, you could file a lawsuit for defamation of character, malicious prosecution, or even false imprisonment. 

Defamation of Character Lawsuit

False and damaging information can be spread in two ways, verbally and via the written word. “Slander” refers to defamatory verbal statements, while “libel” describes publishing false statements in print. Libel can occur in various written media outlets such as websites, newspapers, social media posts, and others. Slander can potentially be committed via any verbal exchange, whether in person, in a phone call, or during a video conference.  

In a defamation of character case, the falsely accused must prove that the defendant harmed their reputation. According to the Statutes of Pennsylvania, Title 42, the plaintiff (the person bringing the defamation lawsuit) generally has to prove that:

  • The statement was defamatory in nature
  • The statement was published (verbally or in writing) by the defendant
  • The statement is about the plaintiff
  • The statement caused harm to the plaintiff

Malicious Prosecution Lawsuits

If you have been wrongly accused of a crime in Pennsylvania, you could potentially sue the accuser and pursue compensation for your financial damages. However, you could also bring a malicious prosecution lawsuit against a prosecutor if you were prosecuted without probable cause. If you are successful with a malicious prosecution case, you could recover various damages, including for financial losses, emotional distress, and others. 

False Imprisonment Lawsuit

If you were detained or imprisoned based on a false accusation or law enforcement misconduct, you could pursue a false imprisonment lawsuit and receive compensation. 

Morgan & Morgan’s determined attorneys could help fight for the financial recovery you deserve after being falsely accused of a crime. 

Damages You Could Recover With a Civil Lawsuit

If you suffered the emotional and financial consequences of a false accusation, you could be entitled to compensation, including awards for:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Damaged reputation
  • Counseling
  • Humiliation
  • Income loss
  • Loss of future potential income 
  • Legal and court fees

If you are unsure about your next best steps if you were wrongly accused of a crime in Pennsylvania, Morgan & Morgan can be here for you. We can analyze your case, assess your damages, and fight for what you deserve. 

Your Accuser Could Face Criminal Charges 

While you could have grounds to initiate a civil lawsuit, your accuser could also face a criminal charge, particularly if their accusations caused harm and damages. Falsely reporting an offense or deliberately making false statements to law enforcement is in itself a misdemeanor crime in Pennsylvania, punishable with prison time and fines.

FAQs

What Is a False Allegation?

False allegations arise when someone accuses an individual of a crime they did not commit. False allegations can occur when:

  • A crime was fabricated and never took place
  • An offense did occur but was not committed by the accused, and the accused is innocent
  • True events are mixed up with events that did not occur 

Individuals can be wrongly accused of all kinds of crimes, including:  

  • Theft and vandalism
  • Drug offenses
  • Homicide
  • Assault and battery
  • Rape and other sexual attacks

One of the more common types of false accusations involves violence against women, such as sexual assault and domestic violence. According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), around 2-10 percent of sexual assault accusations could be false allegations. 

How Much Is My Case Worth?

No two civil lawsuits are the same. Therefore, it can be tricky to determine what your case is worth. However, if the false accusation caused you great financial losses, a tarnished reputation, and emotional distress, you could qualify for a settlement reflecting your damages. You could also claim any future expected losses, such as reduced future earning potential due to having been falsely accused of a crime. Our seasoned attorneys can analyze your damages and advise you on the potential worth of your case.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Get Justice if Someone Accuses Me of a Crime?

If someone accused you of a crime or made a false statement to law enforcement, you could face serious consequences despite being innocent. Therefore, consider working with an attorney rather than trying to go it alone. An attorney can protect your rights and advocate for you. Moreover, if you have suffered damages such as financial losses and emotional distress, a lawyer can assess your options for pursuing adequate compensation. The sooner you speak to an attorney, the sooner they can work on reducing the harmful consequences of a false accusation. 

Who Pays for My Legal Fees?

If you work with Morgan & Morgan, rest assured that there will be no out-of-pocket costs for you as our lawyers work on a “no-win-no-fee” basis. We only get paid if we win and you receive damages. 

Should I Talk to the Accuser?

We do not recommend taking justice into your own hands and talking to our accuser in an attempt to straighten things out. Doing so could make things worse. Contacting your accuser could be misconstrued as an intimidation attempt, especially if they have a protective order against you. Instead, consider calling a lawyer to find out about your best course of action if someone accused you of a crime you did not commit.

How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit for False Accusations in Pennsylvania?

There are general time limits for civil lawsuits in Pennsylvania. However, how much time you have for filing a lawsuit will depend on the type of case. If you are looking to sue another individual for defamation, you generally have only one year to file a suit. If you were falsely imprisoned or maliciously prosecuted, the Pennsylvania Statute allows you two years for filing a lawsuit and seeking damages. 

However, the deadlines as set out in the statutes of limitations can be shortened or lengthened in some cases. If you have a case against law enforcement or another government entity, for example, you generally have to file a notice within six months of the incident. Therefore, consider contacting an attorney as soon as possible to determine the right timing for your lawsuit and ensure you are not missing any critical deadlines.

What Is an Intentional Tort?

Wrongly accusing someone of a crime or false imprisonment are generally intentional tort cases. An intentional tort is a deliberate attempt of causing harm to another and differs from most civil cases based on negligence. Negligence arises in unintentional accidents where the liable party carelessly causes the incident rather than deliberately trying to cause harm.

As most personal injury claims do not involve deliberate wrongdoing, they do not qualify for punitive damages. However, intentional tort cases are different since the defendant deliberately injured the plaintiff by making a false statement. Therefore, punitive damages, designed to punish the wrongdoer, can be more common with defamation lawsuits and other intentional torts.

How Can Morgan & Morgan Help?

Our experienced and committed lawyers can help, whether you were falsely accused of a crime, subjected to false imprisonment, or maliciously prosecuted. Filing a lawsuit to restore your reputation and recover damages after a false accusation can be challenging. However, our determined lawyers can gather evidence, build your case against the responsible party, and hold the defendant accountable for their actions. We can:

  • Offer legal advice and counsel
  • Clarify your legal options 
  • Determine your damages and future expected losses
  • File the paperwork for your lawsuit
  • Work for you on a “no-win-no-fee” basis
  • Negotiate a fair out-of-court settlement
  • Fight vigorously for your rights at trial

Morgan & Morgan is on your side. As America’s largest personal injury firm, we have the manpower and resources to handle even the most complex and lengthy cases. When we take your case, you have peace of mind while we work tirelessly for the best possible outcome of your case and the maximum compensation award. 

Morgan & Morgan Can Fight to Restore Your Good Name

Getting accused of something you did not do can be crushing, especially if the accusation threatens to destroy your home life, career, and future business prospects. However, you do not need to struggle on your own with clearing your name and fighting for adequate compensation. Our attorneys are ready to fight for you. If you do not know what to do if you were wrongly accused of a crime in Pennsylvania, get in touch with us. We can walk you through your options and take charge of your case so you can get your life back on track. Contact us now for a free, no-obligation review of your case.

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