One of the most upsetting things that can happen to anyone is to be falsely accused of a crime that you did not commit. While certainly police departments can sometimes unintentionally conclude that a person has committed a crime that in fact he or she did not commit, most of the time that false accusations are made, they are made by a party to a dispute, or within the context of a Massachusetts domestic violence case.
While it would be comforting to think that the criminal justice system and the courts will inevitably “see” that an innocent person is, in fact, truly innocent, and that it will exonerate anyone falsely accused, thinking this way would be extremely unwise. As a Dedham, Massachusetts criminal defense attorney, I can assure you: If you have been falsely accused of a crime, you must marshal all the evidence, assets, and legal resources that you have, to defend yourself vigorously against any charges.
The seriousness of any criminal charge will, of course, depend on the particular crime that a person is accused of, and the accompanying criminal penalties. As a Norfolk County Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer, I’ve defended clients that have been wrongfully accused of all kinds of offenses, from Massachusetts rape and sexual assault charges, to accusations of Massachusetts assault and battery, to Massachusetts kidnapping charges, to Massachusetts OUI./DUI offenses, to Massachusetts gun & firearms offenses. While some offenses are more serious than others, all Massachusetts crimes carry considerable penalties.
How does a person prove his innocence before a judge or jury? Well, first of all, the question of whether or not an accused will be formally charged with committing a crime is not decided by a judge. Surprised? Don’t be. As my website page dealing with Massachusetts Clerk-Magistrate’s Hearings (or Massachusetts Show-Cause Hearings,) discusses, often a party will accuse someone of committing a criminal offense through the mechanism of what is known as an Application for Criminal Complaint. That “party” (usually a police department or another person,) will complete this form and file it with a local Massachusetts District Court. At that point, the Clerk-Magistrate will send the accused a notice that a “Show-Cause Hearing” or “Clerk’s Hearing” has been scheduled to hear evidence in the matter. At this hearing, the Clerk hears evidence from both parties regarding the accusations, and renders a decision as to whether or not the accused should be formally charged with the crime alleged. In the event the Clerk-Magistrate finds probable cause exists, the accused will be formally charged with the crime alleged, and he or she becomes a criminal defendant. The matter is then prosecuted by the District Attorney. My office has successfully defended literally hundreds of these cases.
I’ll discuss what steps you should take in the unfortunate event you are accused of a crime, in Part Two of this post in a couple of days.