Misremembering can lead to false accusations

The word “misremember” seems to be the current buzzword. Brian Williams misremembered his involvement in Iraq helicopter incident. While there is a debate to how serious Williams’ misremembering actually is, experts are saying that it can happen. What is serious, is that it can lead to false accusations and, ultimately, false convictions.

One such example of the dire consequences of misremembering may be found in the Rolling Stone Article, “A Rape on Campus.” Shortly after the magazine published the article, a number of inconsistencies and discrepancies rose, and many people became skeptic of the story that University of Virginia freshman“Jackie” gave to the magazine.

An in-depth investigation revealed that the fraternity in question did not even host a party on the date of the alleged rape, nor did they have a member who matched the description Jackie gave of her assaulter. Did she lie? Or did she misremember? Regardless of the answer, the case raises important questions about our criminal system.

While everyone is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, the reality is that an accused person is often presumed guilty until proven innocent. Psychologists and neuroscientists are saying that yes, there is a difference between a lie and a false memory. Persons can genuinely believe that events occurred when, in fact, they never did. Jackie may sincerely believe that the incident happened as she says it did.

Making a false report of a crime is a crime itself in California under Penal Code 148.5. Penal Code 148.5 only applies when the person reporting the false crime knows it to be false. It is always a defense if the person has a good faith belief that the report is true, even if that belief turns out to be mistaken.

But if it is a false memory, then individuals have been falsely accused and face the very real threat of spending year after year in prison. A person falsely accused of committing a crime faces many of the same challenges as a defendant who is guilty of the crime charged.

Even if persons who are falsely accused are later exonerated, their lives have probably been changed forever. If an individual files a false criminal charge against another person, the accused may be able to bring a lawsuit for malicious prosecution against the accuser and may be able to recover his or her actual injuries, which include attorney fees to defend the underlying case in criminal court, the cost of any bail bond, lost wages, damages for embarrassment and humiliation, and damages for harm to his or her reputation.

If someone has falsely accused you of a crime, call San Diego criminal defense attorney Alex Ozols at Ozols Law Firm today for a free consultation.

Ozols Law Firm
8880 Rio San Diego Dr. #22
San Diego, CA 92108
(619) 288-8357