Can I Sue Someone for Making a False Accusation?

By Rebekah Worsham - Updated February 22, 2018
Gossip in the work place

An individual who intentionally makes false accusations against another with the express purpose of damaging the person's reputation can be subject to a variety of punitive sanctions as permitted by law. Because laws vary by state, civil remedies might differ and are subject to limitations as imposed by state, federal and local municipalities.

Tip

Civil suits allow you to address a variety of false accusations through the court system, ranging from libel to filing a false police report.

Starting a Rumor

Slander, the oral communication of false statements with the purpose of harming an individual or organization's reputation, is grounds for civil penalties as mandated by state and federal law. For example, sharing a story accusing a charity leader of theft damages both the individual and the organization, perhaps irrevocably. To prove slander, it must be shown through clear and convincing evidence that the individual who is being accused of slander knew the statements that he was making were untrue at the time that he made them and were made with the express purpose of harming the victim's standing in the community or workplace.

Posting a Rumor

Libel is another form of false accusation that is punishable by civil sanctions in accordance with the law. Libel consists of statements made in print or through visual or Internet-based depictions that present false representations as they relate to an individual or organization's ethics or character. To prove allegations of libel, proof of the false and printed allegations or accusations must be presented along with evidence that the libelous statements were not only insulting or offensive, but defamatory and made with willful intent and with malice. Posting that a man, perhaps your direct competitor in business, is guilty of burglary on social media without that accusation being proven in a court of law is libelous.

Damaging Reputations

Defamation of character is a false accusation that may be punishable by civil remedies or criminal charges, depending on the nature of the claim. Defamation of character consists of any intentional communication, either in verbal or written form, which is made with the intention to damage a person's reputation; decrease the regard, respect or confidence in which a person is held; or to induce negative, disparaging or hostile opinions against a person or organization. To prove a claim of defamation of character, proof of the statement must be shown along with evidence that the individual knew or should have known that the statements were false, but made them with a knowing and willful intent. Defamation of character could include repeating the slanderous or libelous statements of others.

Negligent or Incompetent Testimony

In certain circumstances, negligent or incompetent testimony made on the part of an expert witness in a civil or criminal matter may be grounds for civil suit if it can be shown to have harmed the victim's reputation or standing in the community or the victim's workplace. Depending on the nature of the negligent or incompetent testimony, the victim may sue for lost wages, pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages, as permitted under law.

Criminal Sanctions

Intentionally making a false accusation to law enforcement with the purpose of damaging an individual's reputation or to encourage the wrongful prosecution of a party is a criminal offense and may be subject to criminal sanctions as determined by law. While laws vary by municipality, intentionally filing a false report is considered a crime in every state and the accused may be charged with misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the nature of the offense. If you accuse someone of a crime you know they did not commit, such as cutting car tires, and the police can prove you knew the case was false, you will be charged with filing a false police report and, possibly, additional charges. When criminal charges are proven, a lawsuit can easily follow.

About the Author

Rebekah Worsham began writing professionally in 2007 and has been published on eHow. She has expertise in the fields of law, parapsychology and the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. She holds a degrees in law from Beckfield College.

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