False allegations often fueled by desire for sympathy

In early October, actress Amanda Bynes repeatedly tweeted that her father abused her physically, sexually and verbally. According to CBS News, the young woman posted that living with her father was a total nightmare and that her mother protected him by not calling law enforcement. Ms. Bynes went on to say she was considering hiring an attorney and getting a restraining order. Shortly afterward, she retracted all her comments, stating that a microchip in her brain caused her to write those things. Her parents are trying to get her help at a mental health facility.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, mental illness is just one of the reasons that people make false allegations of a crime. Understanding why people in Minnesota and throughout the country engage in this behavior can give an insight into how to combat those accusations.

What happens after a false report

Under Minnesota statute, someone who files a false report of a criminal charge with law enforcement is guilty of a misdemeanor, and subsequent offenses will result in a gross misdemeanor. If the false accusation is in regard to a member of law enforcement, the statute enables prosecution to pursue the maximum penalties and fines of as much as $3,000.

Why it happens

With such serious consequences, it may be confusing as to why people file false charges. According to the FBI, there are several motivating factors. Someone who falsely accuses another person of a crime may be experiencing one or more of the following:

  • Wanting attention or sympathy
  • Having a mental illness
  • Suffering from depression
  • Needing an alibi
  • Seeking revenge

The agency reports that women make up the majority of the population who file false reports, and those wanting to gain sympathy will usually allege interpersonal offenses, such as sexual assault. Men will also engage in the activity, but they tend to claim offenses that are nonsexual, such as attempted murder or physical assault. The FBI reports that in the majority of cases, claims from men and women involve just one offender.

In order to unravel a case, the FBI notes that investigators will usually start looking for forensic evidence, which probably does not exist. Eyewitness testimony can only detail post-offense events, and there are typically inconsistencies in the accusation.

The effects of a false report

Someone who has been wrongly accused may greatly suffer as a result of the ensuing attention from law enforcement, media and friends or family. Even if a defendant’s name is cleared, there will likely still be a time period of anguish and stress. Additionally, a false allegation can tie up valuable law enforcement resources.

People who feel they have been wrongly accused of a crime should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney.

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Involve a criminal appeal attorney soon after you learn the prosecution is appealing your sentence. Your attorney will walk you through the involving and confusing sentencing guidelines. An attorney's involvement will also help you develop a defense strategy for the appeal.