Can I sue someone for making a false accusation?

Written by rebekah worsham
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Can I sue someone for making a false accusation?
Intentionally making false accusations may also be grounds for criminal charges. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

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

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Slander, the oral communication of false statements with the purpose of harming an individual or organisation's reputation, is grounds for civil penalties as mandated by state and federal law. 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.


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 organisation'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 libellous statements were not only insulting or offensive, but defamatory and made with wilful intent and with malice.

Defamation of Character

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 organisation. 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 wilful intent.

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 offence 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 misdemeanour or felony charges, depending on the nature of the offence.

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