Accusations — even false ones — can affect a person’s reputation, relationships, residency situation and career. Overcoming public perception after a false allegation can take a lifetime.
Fortunately, the justice system has mechanisms in place to help a person who confronts untrue claims.
Maryland law prohibits a person from knowingly making a false report, statement or complaint to any law enforcement officer. The person may not cause someone else to make the statement, either. Half-truths can fall under this statute, as the report or complaint cannot be false “in material part.” In other words, the expression cannot be intentionally misleading.
If the defendant clears the charges, the person may file a defamation lawsuit against someone who made the false claim. However, a victory against the erroneous charges does not ensure a win in a defamation suit.
Not all incorrect reports involve defamation. A person may make a false report in sincerity, believing the act occurred as they reported it. A plaintiff in a defamation suit must demonstrate that a person deliberately made harmful statements and show the damage that resulted from such expressions.
Defamation does not just include false police reports. Any statement a person makes that exposes another to public contempt or ridicule can lead to defamation charges if the expression results in harm to the plaintiff.
To discourage defamation, courts in the State of Maryland may impose a fine and imprisonment for the offense. A person who makes false allegations to police may even have to pay restitution to law enforcement because of wasting public resources.