People falsely alleged to have committed crimes can lose their freedom, their livelihood, and their good name in the community, but there are remedies for the falsely accused and ways to punish the false accuser.
Victims come in all shapes and sizes, all colors and creeds. On May 26, 2020 in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Twitter was flooded with a video of an interaction in in Rambler Park of New York City between Amy Cooper, a white female dog walker and Christian Cooper (unrelated) an African-American bird watcher who asked Ms. Cooper to re-leash her dog in accordance with the park’s rules. The encounter, which was recorded by Mr. Cooper escalated from that simple request to Ms. Cooper falsely accusing Mr. Cooper of threatening her life while weaponizing the racial dynamic. Specifically, as Mr. Copper recorded the exchange and the unleashed dog, Ms. Cooper sneered that she was going to call the police and “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life”
While the interaction between Coopers, as a result of viral video, resulted in Amy Cooper losing her job, and ironically, her dog as well, most similar instances do not reach such swift and just resolution. People may wonder, here in Maryland, what remedies does a person have for being falsely accused of a crime? Is there any way to recover legal fees, bond, or for pain and suffering related from the experience? Is there any way of punishing the false accuser?
False accusers in Maryland subject themselves to a criminal charge. Under Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 9-501 prohibits “mak[ing] or caus[ing] to be made, a statement, report, or complaint that the person knows to be false as a whole or in material part, to a law enforcement officer…with intent to deceive and to cause an investigation or other action to be taken as a result of the statement, report, or complaint.”. A violator is subject to a penalty not exceeding 6 months imprisonment or a fine not exceeding $ 500 or both. That statute is seldom charged and even more rarely prosecuted.
Someone who was been falsely accused is not, however limited to criminal remedies. In Maryland, there are several causes of action that can be pursued against those would who misuse the system. In Maryland the tort of malicious prosecution requires (1) the starting or continuing of a criminal proceeding against another, (2) with malice and (3) without probable cause, (4) where the proceeding terminates in favor of the other person. Notably, the malice requirement for malicious prosecution requires only that there was a primary purpose in instituting the proceeding other than that of bringing an offender to justice. Similar but district from malicious prosecution is the tort of abuse of process. The tort of abuse of process requires that a person willfully uses a criminal or civil proceeding against another person for a purpose different from the proceeding’s intended purpose. Damages in an abuse of process action can result from any arrest of the person, seizure of the person’s property, or other damages different from those that would ordinarily follow from a lawsuit involving similar claims. A false accuser may also be found liable for false imprisonment or false arrest as a result of false information to a police officer when such information is a determining factor in the officer’s decision to make a warrantless arrest or detention While these claims are often brought against law enforcement officers, they may be brought against anyone who initiates the police action.
Thinking outside of the box, to achieve justice for clients is what SBDW Law is all about. The attorneys at SBWD law have participated in numerous, groundbreaking cases establishing liability aggrieved individuals throughout the State of Maryland. If you or a family member have concerns the effects of a false allegation, contact Schlachman, Belsky, Weiner & Davey P.A. to discuss your options. At SBWD Law, we are committed to serving your best interest. We have the experience, staff, contacts, and resources to protect your rights effectively.