How to Deal with False Accusations of Abuse
July 5, 2023
Ugly breakups worsen when a parent is falsely accused of child abuse or a partner faces false accusations of abuse. It happened to actor Brad Pitt, who fought allegations of domestic and child abuse during his breakup with Angelina Jolie. In another celebrity case, actress Amber Heard accused her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, of sexual assault and domestic violence. Depp, who said Heard falsely accused him of abuse, filed a defamation lawsuit that eventually settled out-of-court.
Parents falsely accused of child abuse could lose their children in a custody battle. They also may go to prison or lose their job. Being convicted of domestic assault in Missouri can also wreck the lives of those falsely accused.
Despite the serious consequences, many people who know they are innocent do not mount a good legal defense. Not taking accusations seriously ups the chances of going to prison. If you have been accused, be smart and start building a strong defense right away.
Steps to Follow When Falsely Accused of Child Abuse
According to the Missouri child abuse law (RSMo §210.110), an adult cannot physically harm or emotionally or sexually abuse a child in their care. Parents and other caregivers may spank children “in a reasonable manner,” under state law.
If you face a false accusation of child abuse, your defense begins before police come knocking on your door. Follow these three steps to protect your future with your child(ren)l
1. Keep quiet
If you are falsely accused of child abuse in Missouri and police come to your house to arrest you, do not answer any of their questions. If you do so, you are taking a big risk. This is because the evidence in a child abuse case is largely “who said what.” What you say may lead a jury to doubt your innocence.
You do want to cooperate with law enforcement. You will do that by stating your right to remain silent. Practice saying one of these statements to be ready when police start asking questions:
- I will remain silent until my attorney is here.
- I invoke my right to remain silent.
- I won’t answer any questions until after I have talked with my lawyer.
Don’t talk yourself out of invoking your Miranda rights by thinking that if you keep quiet you will appear to be hiding something. That is not true. Law enforcement will think you have a good lawyer who has prepared you for being questioned.
2. Calm down (and remain calm)
Most people understandably are very angry about being falsely accused of child abuse. Maybe you’re going through a child custody battle and your estranged spouse has falsely accused you. Or you have been accused by your employer, or a student at school. Remain calm; doing so prevents you from doing or saying something that may hurt your case. Do not say anything until you have a defense attorney. After a while, your head will clear from the initial shock and you will be ready to fight the charges.
3. Find a lawyer
It is absolutely necessary to hire a criminal defense lawyer because the stakes are so high for people facing accusations of child abuse. Judges know that some defendants are falsely accused and thus conduct impartial and thorough investigations into all claims of child abuse. Judges decide cases with the needs of children in mind. If they have any doubts, they limit parental rights.
In a court system designed to protect children, disproving a false accusation of child abuse is challenging. Jefferson City child abuse attorneys Kirsch & Kirsch provide the kind of representation you deserve.
Dos and Don’ts When Facing a False Accusation of Abuse
The most important step for someone falsely accused of abuse is to get help from a domestic violence lawyer right away. Your lawyer will start by telling you what you can and can’t say. Do not say anything to anyone, including the police, until you have spoken with your lawyer. If you are confronted by the police at your front door, say you choose to remain silent or you plead the fifth.
Missouri’s domestic abuse and sexual assault laws are complicated, so trust your domestic violence lawyer to determine your best defense. At Kirsch & Kirsch, we know the Missouri Revised Statute on domestic assault (§RSMo 565.076) inside and out. The law includes three categories of domestic abuse:
- Physical harm – an individual recklessly caused or tried to cause physical injury, pain, or illness in a domestic situation.
- Endangerment – an individual puts another person at substantial risk of death or serious physical injury.
- Isolation – domestic abuse includes attempting to or causing the isolation of an individual. This includes restricting access to other people, outside communication, or transportation.
Your lawyer will look for evidence you did not commit a crime based on what is spelled out in the law. You can help by giving your lawyer any information, physical evidence, or documents you have about the crime which you are falsely accused of committing. Your lawyer also will be looking for witnesses who will help your case, so think about that and give them their names and they will call them.
What Not to Do
When a false accusation starts with a breakup, many people accused of abuse hope to make up with their accuser and start over. They expect the accuser to drop the charges when their relationship is back on track. They rarely get the result they hoped for because there is a good chance a conversation with an accuser will end in an argument. Then they will make more accusations. Plus, the prosecution may say the accused is trying to manipulate or harass them by contacting them.
Remember, what you say and do can be used against you in court. Thus, a good defense includes being silent in most situations related to the accusation:
- Do not talk to law enforcement without your lawyer present.
- Don’t talk to your accuser before you have been charged.
- Don’t talk to your accuser after the charges are filed to avoid or while you await trial.
- Do not discuss your case with anyone other than your lawyer.
At Kirsch & Kirsch, we communicate about your case for you. If the prosecution has a question, we answer it. We want to eliminate any questions and potential misunderstandings with the goal of proving your innocence.
In addition to not talking about your case:
- Do not destroy evidence, even if you think it could hurt your case. Destroying evidence will make you look suspicious and could lead to more charges against you.
- Do not agree to any tests, such as DNA tests.
- Do not give evidence to law enforcement without talking with your lawyer, even if you think the evidence will prove you were falsely accused of abuse.
- Do not talk to witnesses even if you think they may help your case. Instead, give their names to your lawyer who will contact them.
Don’t Let a False Accusation of Abuse Ruin Your Life
If you are the victim of false accusations of abuse get the help you deserve. Contact the Jefferson City defense attorneys Kirsch & Kirsch to clear your name and get your life back. Contact us online or call 573-222-0826 for your free, confidential consultation.