The Dangers of a False Accusation: Why You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney in NYC

The Dangers of a False Accusation: Why You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney in NYC

False accusations in New York City are extremely serious and worryingly common. This type of crime occurs when someone alleges you have committed an offense that you did not do, with no evidence to support their claim. Since being accused of a crime could potentially result in criminal charges, the implications of false claims against you could be life-changing.

In this blog, we’ll explore false accusations in some detail, including:

  • What false accusations can include
  • Consequences for the falsely accused
  • Potential punishments for the person making false accusations
  • How an experienced criminal defense attorney can help if you’re falsely accused

What false accusations can include

False accusations can happen in different types of cases and situations, including criminal cases, a civil lawsuit, and even in personal or professional relationships.

Since false accusations can relate to any part of the law, there are countless examples of how this behavior can manifest. However, some of the most common situations include:


False accusations of theft are not uncommon and can often stem from misunderstandings or mistaken identity.


False accusations of assault can be made due to a variety of reasons, including personal disputes or mistaken perceptions of events.

Drug possession

False accusations of drug possession can occur if someone is caught with drugs that are not theirs or if a police officer mistakes a legal substance for an illegal one.

Child abuse

False allegations of child abuse can, unfortunately, be found when a person wants to sway family law proceedings in their favor. Also, they can come as a result of overly cautious or inexperienced staff at schools and daycare facilities.

Domestic violence

False accusations of domestic violence can occur during contentious divorces or child custody battles or due to false reports made out of spite or revenge.

Sexual assault

False accusations of sexual assault can be made due to misunderstandings, miscommunications, or malicious intent.

Civil cases and false accusations in the workplace

These are examples of false allegations related to criminal law – but false accusations often extend into civil settings and the workplace too. In a professional setting, false accusations of discrimination are not uncommon and can include allegations of:

  • Age discrimination
  • Race discrimination
  • Gender discrimination
  • Sexual orientation discrimination
  • Disability discrimination
  • Religious discrimination
  • National origin discrimination

Why are false accusations taken seriously?

If you’ve been accused of a crime or workplace behavior you do not recognize or did not commit, you might be tempted to dismiss the allegations as not serious. Unfortunately, this can be a damaging strategy.

False allegations can impact your life in a number of very serious ways.

A damaging investigation

It is the duty of law enforcement officers and responsible companies to investigate any accusation presented to them. Since it is not expected that an alleged victim of a crime should gather evidence, the police or the company will begin an investigation with you as a potential suspect.

This investigation process can itself be enormously damaging. People not involved in the investigation can very easily adopt the opinion of “There’s no smoke without fire” – meaning that if something is suspected, there’s a reason for the suspicion, even if there’s no evidence to support it. Simply being involved in a criminal or disciplinary investigation can have lasting reputation damage.

Being found guilty when you’re not

Of course, it’s also not impossible for people falsely accused of a crime or behavior to be found guilty. In professional settings, an outcome will usually be decided based on a ‘balance of probability’ – i.e. how likely it is, in the opinion of the investigators, that the alleged incident took place. In these settings, there is no requirement that an incident is proven to be true beyond reasonable doubt.

While the conditions for reaching a guilty criminal verdict are tougher, falsely accused people unfortunately still find themselves punished – sometimes even facing false imprisonment. If a person has made false statements in an effort to bring a malicious prosecution, it’s perfectly possible that they could have also fabricated evidence or supporting witness statements.

Interrupting your life

Even if a criminal or civil allegation is found to be untrue, it can interrupt your life for a long time. You may find yourself suspended from your job while an investigation takes place or tied up in a criminal investigation for a long time.

Because of this, it can be tempting to try to come to an agreement or settlement with the accuser in an effort to minimize disruption. Aside from feeling incredibly unjust, this can also further add to an incorrect assumption of some guilt by other people.

Is making a false accusation a crime?

As you can see, even without subsequent prosecution or disciplinary action, false accusations can have a serious impact on the life of the falsely accused. As such, making false allegations is one of few areas not covered by your First Amendment right to free speech.

Sections 240.50, 240.55, and 240.60 of the New York State Senate Penal Law outline the specifics around the false reporting of incidents as part of the Article 240 Offenses Against Public Order laws. Depending on the circumstances, false reporting crimes can be considered either third, second, or first-degree offenses.

According to New York Penal Law, charges may be treated as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the seriousness of the false information provided and any potential actions that police officers or government officials may have taken as a result of this false information.

Potential punishments for the person making false accusations

As we’ve explained above, falsely reporting a crime or making a false statement can either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. As such, the punishment could include a jail sentence of up to one year. In the most serious cases, the person making false accusations could face up to seven years in state prison.

If it is found that someone has made a false allegation, it’s also possible that they could face further charges. They could be found to have broken defamation law and face charges relating to that. Equally, they could be investigated for perjury or obstruction of justice – both of which would be considered felonies carrying potential jail time.

Consequences for the falsely accused

According to the Innocence Project, the rate of wrongful convictions in the U.S. is estimated to be somewhere between 2% and 10%. Even at the lowest end of this estimation, this means there are upward of 50,000 people in jail for crimes they did not commit. Clearly, not all of these cases are a result of malicious false accusations – but it goes to prove that innocent people do go to jail.

Of course, jail time is only one outcome for someone found guilty after a false accusation. There are many other consequences too.

Criminal Record

A criminal record can limit your opportunities for employment, education, and housing. Even if you’re acquitted of the charges, an arrest and trial can still show up on your record.

Financial Loss

False allegations can be expensive. Legal fees, lost wages, and court costs can quickly add up if a case drags on.

Reputation Damage

False accusations can damage your reputation, both personally and professionally. It can be challenging to repair your reputation once it’s been tarnished.

Mental Health

False accusations can have a significant impact on your mental health. The stress and anxiety of facing criminal charges can be overwhelming.

How an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help if you’re falsely accused

The prospect of facing false accusations can be terrifying. As we’ve outlined, even an accusation can be life-changing – and that’s before even considering whether you could be inadvertently found guilty of a serious crime.

Whether you’re facing an allegation now or you feel someone in your life has the potential to make false accusations, you should talk to an experienced law firm to make sure you’re protected.

We can help. Sadly, false accusations are more common than most people realize, so the team here at The Law Offices of Julie Rendelman has helped countless people to understand and uphold their legal rights in the face of malicious or misplaced allegations. Time is not on your side when someone else decides to make a false accusation, so it’s important that you call us today to arrange a free consultation.