The process of a criminal case can be difficult to navigate and can have serious consequences. These consequences might affect not only your finances but also your reputation and your ability to live a normal life. Even with an acquittal, you might find it difficult to seek employment, access housing, or even form relationships. You might also find yourself with serious financial challenges after paying the legal fees associated with your defense. Facing these damages, you may be wondering whether it is possible to pursue compensation through a civil suit after being wrongly accused of a crime in Colorado. Here is what you need to know:
Examples of Wrongful Accusations in Colorado
Although headlines are often dominated by people who have committed real crimes, false accusations are relatively common in Colorado. The reason for this is simple: False accusations are often connected with failures on the part of the legal system and the police – failures that these organizations would prefer to keep quiet. Nevertheless, some false allegations are too egregious to be kept out of the news.
In July of 2023, a Colorado individual was wrongly accused and arrested for shoplifting at Walmart. He apparently aroused suspicions after he removed his license plate in the car park and threw it in the trash. However, the license plate was expired, and the lawyer was actually doing the right thing by removing it. Unfortunately, the license plate was picked up by a criminal, who apparently attached it to his own vehicle and carried out a number of crimes, including the theft of a $200 speaker system from Walmart.
The Colorado individual was then accused of the crime because of the matching plate, despite the fact that surveillance footage clearly showed the thief as a shorter, younger individual. In addition, the thief had a noticeable neck tattoo that was absent from the innocent individual. The innocent individual was then arrested, spending six hours in jail and spending $6,000 on legal fees.
Wrongful accusations of hate crimes can be particularly harmful. In 2021, a Major League Baseball fan had his life upended after being wrongfully accused of shouting racial slurs at another fan during a Rockies game. The media seized on this story, running a viral clip numerous times where the fan was seemingly shouting the “n-word” at another fan. However, further examination revealed that the fan was actually shouting “dinger” – the name of the Rockies mascot.
Why File a Civil Suit After a Wrongful Accusation?
If you have been wrongfully accused of a crime, you may have the ability to file a civil suit against any negligent party that allowed your criminal case to move forward. A civil case is not the same as a criminal case, as there is no possibility of incarceration. Instead, defendants who lose civil lawsuits must provide compensation to the plaintiff. This compensation may cover a range of damages associated with a wrongful accusation, including:
- The cost of your legal fees
- The loss of reputation
- Loss of earnings
- Loss of future career opportunities
- Losses suffered by your business
- Emotional distress
Essentially, any out-of-pocket expenses you incurred due to the wrongful accusation may be compensated by the defendant.
The primary reason to file a civil suit after a wrongful accusation is to recover some or all of these losses. However, plaintiffs may also pursue these lawsuits in order to achieve a sense of closure and justice – making it easier to move on with their lives and accept what they have been forced to endure.
What Do You Need to Prove?
As with most civil cases, the primary goal in this situation is to establish that someone else's negligence led to your damages. The specific goals of your case will depend on how you were affected by the wrongful accusation. If it simply affected your reputation and perhaps your earning capability, you will most likely file a defamation lawsuit. Here are the elements of a defamation lawsuit:
- The statement must be false
- The statement must involve the plaintiff in some way
- The statement must be either published or communicated to a third party
- There must be negligent disregard
- If the statement involves a public figure, there must be “actual malice”
- The statement must have caused real damages
If you were wrongfully accused of a crime and you experienced consequences with the authorities, you may have the ability to sue prosecutors, police departments, and other law enforcement agencies. All of these parties represent the government in some form, so a civil case in this situation would likely be filed against state or municipal authorities.
For example, a case of mistaken identity may result in a lawsuit filed against the police. If you can show that the police acted in a reckless manner without carefully assessing the evidence, you may have the ability to sue them. This is especially true if you suffered physical injuries during the arrest or incurred legal fees as you attempted to defend yourself.
Perhaps the most notable cases of wrongful accusations involve incarceration. There are cases where people have spent decades in prison after being wrongfully accused of certain crimes. These plaintiffs have every right to hold negligent parties accountable and recover damages for this life-changing event. These cases may also result in higher settlement amounts.
To determine who you may sue after being wrongfully accused, consider getting in touch with a criminal justice attorney in Colorado to book a consultation and discuss your unique situation.
Where Can I Find a Criminal Justice Attorney in Colorado?
If you have been wrongly accused of a crime, consider booking a consultation with Casey James Alexander. With offices conveniently located in Loveland, Colorado, we can provide guidance to those who are exploring the possibility of a civil suit after wrongful allegations. Criminal justice attorneys in Colorado can assess your unique situation during an initial consultation before recommending the most appropriate course of legal action. Reach out today to get started.