It’s been well-documented that witnesses to crimes are far too often unreliable in a court of law.
In some cases, it’s because they’re traumatized. Other times, they simply aren’t sure of what they saw or heard, yet they don’t want to disappoint the police and prosecutors on the case. And then, of course, there are those cases in which they are flat-out lying.
Our Broward felony defense attorneys know this unfortunately happens more often than one might think.
Just last month in Boca Raton, a student at Florida Atlantic University confessed that his reported claim of a robbery on a random Wednesday evening was a lie. His story was quite credible, leading police to launch a major search for supposedly violent culprits wreaking havoc on innocent college students.
The student, 25, said he had been “ambushed” by five men near the recreational center on campus. Officers noted he had suffered numerous injuries to his face and body, and he had obtained treatment at a local hospital. He reported he was forced at gunpoint to drive to a nearby bank in order to withdraw money.
As it was later revealed, the student the victim of a crime. However, it was not the one he had concocted to police. The truth was that he was beaten because he hadn’t paid off an outstanding drug debt to an alleged dealer in Fort Lauderdale. The incident did not even occur on campus.
No one was arrested in connection with the case, but that doesn’t mean the potential for that to happen wasn’t there. Prosecutors have been known to build cases with far less. Unfortunately, when defendants lack an experienced defense attorney, even flimsy criminal cases can result in convictions.
In the case of the FAU student, authorities said they became suspicious of his story as there were pieces of physical elements that failed to match the story he’d told police. When detectives pressed him for further information, he reportedly folded and confessed that he’d made the whole thing up.
As such, he’ll be subject to discipline from the university, and it’s also possible he could face criminal charges. Making a false report to law enforcement, per Florida Statute 837.05, is a form of perjury. In most cases, it will be a first-degree misdemeanor, meaning the maximum penalty is up to one year in jail. However, if the individual had previously been convicted of the same crime or if the false information given to the officer occurred in writing, it would be considered a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Police say it doesn’t happen all that often, but of course, they are only speaking of the cases in which they are aware that the report made was false.
Another crime that is too often falsely reported is rape. This is especially true on campus. Usually, alcohol is involved and often the claim stems from next-day regrets or sometimes uncertainty about what may have in fact occurred. These cases can be especially damaging because often, DNA evidence does exist and it becomes a situation of one person’s word against another’s.
If you are falsely accused of a crime, don’t make the mistake of assuming your innocence alone will be enough to ensure you will avoid a conviction. Contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
If you are charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Police: FAU student made up story of beating, robbery, Oct. 26, 2013, By Adam Sacasa and Erika Pesantes, Sun Sentinel
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