College Students Share Their Opinions About the Penalty for False Allegations

There’s tremendous power in a tweet.

Companies, celebrities and even the President of the United States use Twitter to make important announcements, promote products, and even spark social movements.

Take the example of #MeToo.

On October 15, 2017, actress Alyssa Milano wrote: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” Ever since, the hashtag #MeToo has been retweeted and reshared across social media worldwide. As the movement continues to impact American life today, it also spreads around the globe to other countries — most recently to Japan and Palestine.

While the #MeToo movement has played an important and overall positive role in increasing awareness of sexual assault, cases such as Jussie Smollett and others underscroe the importance of due process and presumption of innocence. While statistically rare, false allegations of sexual assault and hate crimes have risen sharply in recent months and years. Those who make false accusations typically have underlying motives, such as in a divorce proceeding, custody battle, or for another reason. Unfortunately, a mere accusation can ruin a person’s reputation and be enough to convict the innocent person in the eyes of the media and public.

Here at the Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp, our Houston defense attorneys frequently represent clients who have been falsely accused of a crime, including sex assault and domestic violence. This experience is what drove us to sponsor a privately funded scholarship asking college students to answer this question in 300-500 words:

What do you think the legal consequences should be for falsely accusing someone of a crime, such as a hate crime or sexual assault?

We were thrilled to receive over 100 responses from students all over the country. While we had the difficult job of selecting just one winner, we wanted to share some of our favorite tidbits from other top entries.

Continue reading to hear what the student respondents had to say about this controversial topic, in their own words.

Essay question: What should the legal consequences be for falsely accusing someone of a crime, such as a hate crime or sexual assault?

Tessa Borrego, Western Washington University (scholarship winner):

“Oftentimes, false accusations are used as a leveraging point—that is, to create drama, attention, or political divide… The immense danger in not appropriately dealing with false accusations is the damage it can create for actual survivors of these crimes. True victims of assault (who are already heavily denounced, downsized, and made to feel guilty) are further enforced as making it up, or exaggerating.

As a future teacher, I strongly believe in the power of education to transform and empower our lives.

I believe all false accusers, more than a simple fine or jail time, must be required to receive education regarding the consequences of false accusations, insight into the historical stigmatization of these minority groups, and how our nation has thrived because of our diversity of people and thought, not in spite of it. Any money posted for bail should directly go to a charity benefiting the falsely accused, such as a sexual assault survivors fund, or the Anti-Defamation League.”

Read Tessa’s full essay here

Jacob Carter, Northern Arizona University:

“In my opinion, false allegations of any kind should fall under the same legal category as defamation and therefore receive the same punishment. Victims of defamation are able to file a lawsuit against an individual or company; they have the opportunity to receive monetary compensation for the damages caused by slander or libelous claims… ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ should apply to both the victim and the accused in any situation, especially those regarding sexual assault.”

Dylan Letsinger, Harding University:

“Due to this being such a problem, I believe that there should be a consequence of a minimum of 6 months to a year in jail with a fine (and a maximum of 5 years). The amount of jail time should depend on the crime that the person is accusing the victim of. If the victim is being accused of assault or a hate crime, then the time should be given accordingly. While many people can come up with the money to pay the fine, they will think twice when the consequence involves time in jail. Money can be made back, while lost time cannot.”

Mario Martinez, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology:

“Current legal consequences for false accusations are often very weak compared to the potential consequences [facing] the accused.”

Lindzie Walker, Prairie View A&M University:

“Justice must be served, regardless of how big or small the crime may be. When making false accusations, you’re messing with people’s lives — stealing time, opportunities, and [the ability] to experience life freely. Accusers making false accusations must be brought to justice. The lives of the innocent depend on it…”

Cameron Haring, Siena College:

“I would simply state that a person who falsely accuses an innocent individual of a heinous crime should be subjected to an identical ruling of a jury… My belief that the individual who falsely accused another innocent person should receive the same lawful punishment…”

Oladeji Akinbamowo, University of Maryland Baltimore County:

“The only well-defined recourse that those who are falsely accused have currently is through civil court which may compensate the falsely accused monetarily for the damage caused by the false allegation but the accuser is still not punished.”

“I think that people who falsely accuse others of crimes should face jail time, fines, mandatory community service or some combination of all of the above in addition to being sued in civil court.”

Daniel Clinton, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee:

“I believe in the testimony of victims, but we must be careful. There are always pretenders out there, though they are very few. If this happens, and a condemned person is found to be innocent of a crime, the accuser should not be punished too severely. Or rather, the severity of the punishment should depend upon the extent of the harm caused. If a man has been jailed or repeatedly harassed, having lost everything, then perhaps it should be up to him to ultimately determine the fate of the accuser, barring that his wish is not overly excessive.”

Baylee Barnett, University of Nebraska at Kearney:

“Falsely accusing someone of a crime such as a hate crime or sexual assault is a hate crime in itself. Also, the action of falsely accusing someone under oath in court is perjury.”

Jeanette Abdelshafy, Texas Tech Health & Sciences:

“The party or parties responsible for making the false accusations toward someone should legally be required to pay the person for the pain and suffering that was caused to that person as a result of the accusation in the form of a fine that will be made payable to the falsely accused. Since a person’s character, reputation and time itself are valuable and can never be returned to the affected person the amount of payment should be based on the severity of pain and suffering that was caused; such as if the falsely accused served prison time including the amount of prison time served, a damaged reputation that caused the loss of a job, etc.

Often those responsible will not accept their fault and that they were wrong for making false accusations and it is for this reason that a formal apology should also be required from those responsible in the form of a letter to be given to the falsely accused… In the event the responsible party refuses to provide a formal apology an additional penalty shall be incurred such as an additional fine.”

Kara McAtee, University of Missouri St Louis:

“I do believe there are some cases where the accuser is mistaken or uncertain and means no harm to their accuser, but there are also many vindictive people who do not want to take responsibility for their actions, so they attempt to shift the all blame to the accused. Wrongly accusing with no proof (and not collaborated through witnesses) should involve a fine as well as jail time.”

Hannah Kroeger, Northern Arizona University:

“The punishment for false accusations should equal to that of the amount they are accusing the victim of. The legal consequences for falsely accusing someone for a hate crime that involves falsifying injuries, report of the use of firearms, explosives, or fire should be a minimum of 10 years in jail. Following this sentence, they should be fined ten thousand dollars. The legal consequences for falsely accusing someone for a hate crime that involves kidnapping, sexual assault or murder should be punishable by life in prison with a chance of parole after serving twenty-five years in prison. There needs to be stricter laws and more severe punishments for all crimes.”

Candi Roach, Florida State College at Jacksonville:

“I believe the legal consequences for falsely accusing someone of a crime, such as a hate crime or sexual assault should be the same as what the person is falsely accusing the other person of doing. If the sentence would be life then that person should get life in prison. If a person is falsely accusing someone of doing something they did not do and it can be proven, then the accuser should have to face the same sentence they were willing to submit the accused of. I believe this would dramatically lower the rates of falsely accusing someone.”

Cecelyn Sierra, Texas A&M University-Kingsville:

“Those who falsely accused should receive a fine for intentional infliction of emotional distress and receive a note on their permanent record. They are not only affecting the lives of those they accused, but those who wish to speak up but are fearful of not being believed.”

Colton McKay, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology:

“I believe that someone who falsely accused someone of a crime such as a hate crime or sexual assault intentionally should be charged with false reporting at the least. This would be a misdemeanor in Indiana and would result in some jail time and fines. While this may seem like a harsh penalty to some people, I feel that it is very appropriate given the fallout a false accusation can have on the people involved.”

“Not only can a false accusation hurt the accused’s job, relationships, and honor, but it also affects the legal system and other people who have true accusations. It can affect the legal system by wasting prosecutors’, detectives’, judges’, and lawyers’ time as they investigate a case that will inevitably lead to nothing.”

Prahalad Muralidharan, Georgia State University:

“Dishonesty about such issues needs a very straight and upfront consequence. First it must come from a public apology, then depending on how serious the fake allegation was they would have to pay a certain price in terms of money… Justice can only be done if the falsely accused person gets money from the person who falsely accused him, and depending on what the accusation is  jail time should be [considered].”

Ashley Taylor, Point Loma Nazarene University:

“The consequences for falsely accusing someone should be severe. It should have the same consequences of the crime they falsely accused someone of doing. This will help protect people from ruining someone’s name and livelihood. It will help protect innocent people from falling victim of false accusations.”

Collin Peel, Mercyhurst University:

“To attempt and make this situation right, the accuser would first need to issue a public apology in an attempt to restore [the falsely accused person’s] reputation. It must cover the scope of the accused’s peers and of the accusations. Secondly, if the accused lost a job or received a demotion because of this incident, then the accuser must attempt to clear the matter with the employer. The accuser shall pay back any fines to the victim as well as restoration. Finally, the accuser should be charged with no less a crime than false imprisonment in less than desirable conditions for half duration of the victim’s prison stay.”

Kathleen Flood, Southern New Hampshire University:

“For someone who would have intentionally ruined another person’s life by making a false police report and lying about the circumstances, they should get a chance to walk in the other person’s shoes.”

“If they want to ruin another life, they need to realize that in actuality, they have ruined their own life. They should have to serve a sentence for an equal amount of time as the person who they falsely accused would have, regardless of their race, gender or orientation.”

Samin Riyaz, University of Alabama in Huntsville:

“In order to prevent hate crimes, it is crucial to establish strict laws and harsher forms of punishment in all 50 states against people who are motivated to accuse someone based on a bias. The person falsely accusing someone of a certain crime should have to face the fine or punishment for that actual crime. There should also be some form of compensation for the victims of these hate crimes who suffer through this tragedy.”

Erica Torres, Florida International University:

“I believe that the extremity of the consequences one should face has to directly correlate with the amount of jail time/consequence the person being falsely accused would have had to face… Another legal consequence can also be a large fine. Depending on the accusation, the extremity of the case and many other factors the fines should range from $5,000 to $10,000.”

A’mya Bridges-Davis, Central State University:

“False accusations need to be held accountable to the highest extent. I believe those who were not found guilty should be compensated for the crime they were accused of. And the person who falsely accused the innocent should get a double sentence, sued and have to undergo parole.”

Iris Johnson, Texas A&M University-Kingsville:

“Harsher punishments should be implemented which could range from incarceration, to an established law of registering as a false accuser [like] those who are sexual predators [have to] do. Not only should this apply in criminal proceedings, but if the victim and accuser are both students, there should be an administrative process where if the accused student was falsely accused, that the upper administration proceeds with sanctions on behalf of the innocent individual.”

Jeanette Freeman, University of North Alabama:

“I believe the punishment for falsely accusing someone of a hate crime or sexual assault is to give the [accuser] the same punishment the true victim received. I don’t know if there even is a proper punishment for destroying the reputation of another person for the rest of their life.”

Cassandra Simas, Point Loma Nazarene University:

“I think no matter the circumstance, intent is a vital piece in determining the severity and the consequences of a person on trial, especially for those falsely accusing someone of a crime.”

“I believe these consequences should result in therapy, jail time, and possibly community service, all dependent on the severity of the accusation, and the intention that the person had going into the trial… Since no crime was committed, I don’t believe in sentencing the accuser to equal jail time that the person being accused would have faced, but serious consequences like jail time and high fees should be enforced along with possible therapy and community service to help heal themselves and their victims.”

Cierra Price, University of Missouri – Saint Louis:

“Firstly, it should go on record that the person is an unreliable source of information. This recording should be taken into account should any other claims be made. Secondly, I think that community service would be an acceptable sentence, and also the imposition of a fine for damages to the person that they falsely accused.

Thirdly, and possibly the most complicated to enforce but potentially the most restorative, I believe that those who are found guilty of falsely accusing another person of a crime should be required to seek and participate in some type of therapy or psychological evaluation. There will likely be many instances wherein the accuser was simply seeking to hurt or defame the person they were accusing, but there will also inevitably be many situations wherein the accuser is an unhealthy person—possibly suffering from some time of psychological disorder—who would greatly benefit from rehabilitative action. This, I think, would be the most important tier of this approach.”

Brianne Tomas, Chapman University:

“I believe the legal consequences for falsely accusing someone of a hate crime or sexual assault should be charged with a misdemeanor and serve a minimum of one year in jail… Depending on the extent of the crime and situation, I feel that the individual could also have the potential of being charged with a felony. This decision would be ruled out by a court and a jury. On top of being charged with a misdemeanor, I believe that the individual should also be expected to complete community service, attend educational or informative meetings to understand what they have done wrong and also be examined by a therapist/psychologist for investigation. Based upon the consultation with the therapist, additional jail time, training or community service can be assigned.”

Karolyna Padilla, College Of Wooster:

“I feel that if one feels the personal needs to falsely accuse someone, they should be held accountable for one) paying the fines for the lawyer, any emotional support the individual need and for the money that one could’ve made had they not lost their jobs, 2) they should spend some time in jail and 3) they should have to take a course on what sexual assault really is, what a crime in terms of violence really does look like, and what you should do when it is true.”

Camila Rivera, University of Florida:

“I personally think that some monetary compensation, from both the offender and the local government, should be given, but it is not enough. The [false accuser] should serve some time in prison; perhaps an equal or a considerable amount of time compared to how long the victim spent there.”

Christapher David Dobbs, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology:

“I would take into consideration how long the person’s freedom had been taken from them, what they lost, and their state of mind. If any of these are substantial, is there really anything that can be done to give someone back the rights that were taken from them and the experiences they had to endure? At this point, I think it would fall upon what does the wrongfully accused want done.”

Haley Raymond, Siena College:

“I think restorative justice should take place so that the accuser understands the harm which they have caused to another person and to society, and may then help repair the harm of which they have caused, by being ordered to serve volunteer time at a rape victim shelter, or somewhere that helps real victims of the accused crime.”

Cindy Ly, University of Mary Washington:

“Anyone wrongly accused of sexual assault or hate crimes and proven to be innocent deserve financial help from the accuser for any lost earnings, future lost earning capacity, and other lost economic opportunities that the individual is likely to suffer as a result of the defamatory statement… I personally think that imprisonment is not necessary for defamation because false accusation is a tort and not a crime.”

Rachel L’ecuyer, Keiser University:

“…the accuser should be legally and financially responsible for paying back all fees from lawyers, legalities, taxpayers, jails, investigator’s pay and cop’s pay. They should also be charged with fraud to the fullest extent of the law given by the state. They should also be sent to prison for the amount of time the accuser was set to be imprisoned.”

Joseph Real, DePaul University:

“I would propose a sliding scale punishment of fines to a prison sentence ranging in years dependent on an individual thorough investigation into the evidence of the accusation. If there is reason to justify the accusation, then there should be no punishment. But say there was evidence of the false accusation being against the defendant for personal reasons or ulterior motive. In this case, the [false accuser] should face punishment within the range described, based on the opportunity, monetary, and reputation lost due to the accusation.”

Erin Tillery, Murray State University:

“Overall, the court must look at each individual case and assess personal needs, rather than establishing a one-size fits-all legal consequence. In order to effectively decide the consequences of a possible false report, the court must dive into the issue deeper by listening, understanding, and determining the best course of action moving forward.  A person who makes a false allegation needs help. Courts can offer free counseling and therapy, and provide counseling for people who have experienced trauma.”

Carolina Shawgo, Utah State University:

“I do believe a face-to-face apology should be issued, but this isn’t a guarantee of remorse or a lesson learned. My goal in seeking justice would be a monetary fine equal to the falsified charge penalty. I would also seek restitution of the accused’s reputation and public standing. For example, if a person lost their job due to false accusations, the accuser would have to pay for the income the innocent lost while the case remained active. Lastly, similarly to a sex offender registry, the accuser should be registered in a database to prevent any false accusations in the future. The registry would serve as a warning that further investigation is required when dealing with this individual. This would also benefit the innocent’s public standing after such a scandal.”

Kate DelSignore, Williams College:

“The legal consequences for false accusations should be far-reaching and rehabilitative for both the plaintiff and defendant. False accusers proven guilty should be legally obligated to attend mandatory counseling courses that discuss the gravity of their harmful accusations and uncover serious issues existing in their psyche. In addition, the court should make a ruling that will have a severe impact on the accuser’s finances. Steep fines should be imposed to ensure the wrongdoer will never make such an irrevocable mistake again.”

Diana Ortiz, University of Utah:

“As fabricating lies and accusations of an individual in itself is a crime, I think at least several months in jail would be a good idea. Those who commit a crime should serve some time. That way the individual has time to think and reflect on their actions and the harm it has caused… The crime itself should also be made public so that the accused name is vindicated. If the person accused is an athlete at a college or university and the accuser goes to the same school, I think the accuser should also be expelled or forced to transfer if possible.”

Peyton Wakefield, Texas Tech University:

“In order to mitigate the damages caused by false accusations, I propose that in addition to whatever civil compensation is due to the victim, the false accuser should have to make public that their accusations were false. In this digital age, false accusations can be associated with a person indefinitely, all it takes is a google search for a false accusation to appear beside a person’s name. This forever hurts their chances of moving forward in their life as well as their future career and relationships.

I propose that when accusations are proved false, the false accuser should have to make a [public] statement acknowledging that their accusations were false.

This statement could come in many forms, such as a letter or an email, but it should go to the person falsely accused. This serves as a way for the falsely accused person to regain their life, and if these false accusations should resurface in their life, they would have a way to completely debunk those rumors with accusers’ statement.”

Megan Donaldson, Louisiana State University:

“Legally, I think someone who knowingly falsely accuses someone of something of which they have not done should be given jail time. I don’t think that the person should have to spend years and years in jail, but I feel at least 6 months is due for trying to take someone else’s freedom and reputation.”

Arianna Schott, Pepperdine University:

“Allowing someone to walk free after forever ruining a person’s reputation, future aspirations, and possibly family life should not be tolerated. Just as a person convicted of slander, libel, or perjury would fear jail time or fees, so should any person who is found to have falsely accused someone of a crime. Personally, I believe at least six months of jail time or a fine.”

Emily Gould, Point Loma Nazarene University:

“I believe that the legal consequences for falsely accusing someone of a crime depend largely on the circumstances: whether the accuser knowingly reported a false crime, the gravity of the alleged crime, and if the alleged crime was a case of defamation, or actually reported to the police… Therefore, the punishment must fit the crime…If the allegation was found to be completely unfounded, then I believe that the punishment for the accuser should be proportionate to the burden faced by the accused.”

Juaquin Aleman, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee:

“I believe that the people falsely accusing others must be punished strictly and severely based on what they are accusing the person of. It might be controversial but I believe they should be punished for 2% of what the person would have gotten if they were convicted. For example if someone falsely accuses someone of murder and the person wouldve got a 5 year sentance, then the accuser should get a month in the prison that the accused wouldve been sent to… Additionally, I believe after exonerated the accuser should have the option to sue the accuser because of the issues it may cause or may have caused in their personal or professional life.”

Bria Richardson, Point Park University:

“For crimes like sexual assault and hate crimes, the person being falsely accused should be able to sue the accuser for defamation. The only other requirement should be that the accuser should have to attend a group like therapy session for actual victims of the crime to educate them about the severity of the crime.”

“We shouldn’t just punish someone for a lie, we should educate them as well, solving the problem from within the individual.”

Michelle Sexton, Roane State Community College:

“If I have found the accused to have falsified the claim, I will absolutely prosecute to the fullest extent… It should also be a requirement of the courts that they pay restitution for wages lost, courts fees, attorney costs, etc. I believe that if an example would be made out of a few, this would hinder individuals from making the same mistake.”

Maiysha Lipscomb, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College:

“When a crime is falsely reported it damages that person’s character and reputation and I feel that the person who falsely reported the crime should pay a debt for defamation of character… The last legal consequences should be imprisonment and a public apology. I feel that imprisonment for thirty days and a public apology should be considered because of the humiliation, embarrassment and the degrading actions that were brought upon that person.”

Alani Mason-Callaway, Wheaton College:

“…for the purposes of this discussion, I find it necessary to start with some assumptions that ground the discussion. I will assume two things about the accusation of a hate crime or sexual assault: 1) these crimes are largely unambiguous and not vulnerable to a bystander’s fallible interpretation of completely benign actions, and therefore 2) any false accusation is intentional on the part of the accuser. Under these assumptions, the proper legal consequence for the false accuser should be the same consequence prescribed for the crime accused. Whether the consequence is a hefty fine, community service hours, a prison sentence, registration as a sex offender, or something else, the false accuser should incur the due penalty of the crime as if the false accuser committed that crime him- or herself.”

Kylie Yogi, University of California – San Diego

“Depending on what the punishment would have been if the accused was found guilty, the accuser should face the same or similar punishment. That means the accuser would have to pay the same fine the accused would have paid if guilty or would serve the same sentence in incarceration.”

Kahnya Humphrey, Shoreline Community College:

“I believe that the accuser should face a criminal sentence, as well as a fine. They should be seen as a potential threat towards the victim of the false accusation since it could lead to harassment and, many other false reports. In addition to jail time, I support the idea of accusers paying a fine to their local government, because of the wasted valuable taxpayer dollars towards an issue that upheld no truth to it.”

Johanna Carpio, Florida State University:

“While performing community service and engaging in educational programs as a consequence for false accusations may seem unnecessary, this allows the accuser to grasp a better understanding of the victims who have firsthand experience in the crimes committed towards them, whether it be hate crimes or sexual assault. The false accusers would then recognize the true impact of the stated crime upon the victim and begin to understand the severity of their false accusation.”

Brittany Rodriguez, Northern Arizona University:

“I believe if you are bold enough to wrongfully accuse someone of such a horrible deed, then you are ultimately bold enough to suffer the consequences of that crime.”

Renee Glover, Trinity Chrisitian College:

“I think that the legal consequences for falsely accusing someone of a crime should be that those who accuse have mandatory jail time, probation and community service hours because they ruined someone’s life.”

Kevin Lopez Castellanos, Howard University:

“I believe that when a case of false accusation is confirmed true, the legal consequences should be organized as a spectrum with three major levels of severity: minor, standard, and major.

The minor end of the consequence can include legal fines and/or community service. If one is found guilty on the “minor end”, the legal consequences should be more readily aimed at re-education and restorative justice rather than retributive.

On the medium end of the spectrum, this is where the legal consequences should include a mix of rehabilitation and accountability. These consequences can extend to short sentence to re-education, community service, and if applicable, court-mandated therapy to determine root cause of why one would falsely accuse one of a crime.

However, if one falsely accusing another of more serious crimes such as aggravated assault or battery, the case should transition to trial.”

Cassandra King, Western Governors University:

“There is no easy answer to this question. Much like any other crime, the punishment should depend on the circumstances. If someone was accused of rape, but the accusation was proven to be a false accusation, we need to verify if the accusation made was an honest mistake (maybe the offender had a twin that the accuser wasn’t aware of).”

Daniela Ghelman, Florida International University:

“I think that the consequences should depend on the magnitude of the act. If it was a less serious case, where the person confessed or was found to be a false [accuser] in a short period of time, the consequences could be a fine that replaces the money spent by the state authorities in finding the person responsible…[but], if it was a crime where for a long time they tried to find the culprit, the appropriate consequence would be a time in jail. The person will have to go to trial and meet the time agreed by a judge. At the same time, the consequences should also depend on the age of the person, if he or she is a minor, the consequences would be [volunteering] or a fine paid by their parents or representatives.”

Arijana Zagic, Florida International University:

“We, as an advanced nation, must enforce legislation to ensure that no individual can walk away freely for fabricating crime reports. With the addition of fining, issuing crime citations and requiring counseling, I strongly believe that perpetrators will be more deterred from committing this type of crime.”

Aaliyah Harrell, Alabama A&M University

“There should be consequences for the ones that falsely accuse innocent people of these crimes. Not only are they lying to officers of the law but are also playing with someone’s freedom. The consequence for this should be the same amount of jail time as the crime accused. The falsely accused should also be able to press charges and sue for slander.”

Gustavo Hidalgo, DePaul University:

“Abuse of the legal system in the form of a malicious and false accusation should have legal consequences on par with the damage created by the false accusation. The legal consequences may include fines, damages paid, or incarceration.”

Erin Gilbert, University of California – San Diego:

“Once proven that the individual did in fact make false allegations, the legal consequence should depend on the severity of the accusation, just as most legal consequences depend on the severity of the crime. Whether this is a fine, community service, or jail time is up to the interpretation of the judge. A false accusation should be treated in the same way as we would treat most other crimes. Trial, decision, and appropriate consequence based on the full scenario.”

Isabella Avila, University of California, Riverside

“I would ensure that the [false] accuser has to volunteer at a center for individuals who were assaulted, showing the accuser that individuals do get victimized by these crimes, and how serious it is. The accuser should be enrolled in counseling classes so they can understand the true depth of their actions. A public apology is also necessary in order for the falsely accused to try to gain their reputation back, and to deter future cases from happening.”

Sierra McIntosh, Georgia State University:

“Legal consequences should come in four forms… The first, should be a monetary penalty. The cost of attorney fees and loss of work wages due to litigations should be taken into account by the judge, along with the emotional distress the innocent victim has suffered.

The second form of consequence should be jail time with the charge of fraud.

Third, if the accusations were made online, a publicly announced apology and retraction by the accuser should be placed on the forum or social media sites that the initial claim was established. This apology/retraction should also be posted onto any other social media sites that the accuser is a part of.

Depending on the severity of the accusations and the judge’s discretion, the last consequence should be a temporary or a permanent ban from the social media site that was used to falsely malign the innocent party.”

Xulia Suero, Northern Arizona University:

…if the plaintiff’s testimony is proven to be false, the plaintiff should serve a jail sentence equal to half of which the defendant would have endured. Upon the plaintiff’s release, they must be registered as a perjury offender; this information must be accessible to the public. And somewhere in between serving time and their date of release, the plaintiff will have to pay the expungement and legal fees of the defendant.”

Tansah Adams, University of North Texas:

“Legal ramifications for falsely accusing someone of any crime should range from a Class B misdemeanor to Class C felony, or the lowest level felony within a jurisdiction. Penalties would intern range from 180 days in jail to 2 years in prison dependent upon the crime alleged by the accuser. In addition, the accuser would be subjected to a fine of $10,000.”

Jill Cushnie, Salem State University:

“A person who is an adult who falsely accuses someone of a crime of these natures intentionally should have to pay punitive damages as well as being mandated to serve community service.  If the accused was falsely implicated of a sexual assault by an adult accuser than the accuser should have to serve their community service working with sex offenders who are in a rehabilitation program and or helping out at the local sex offender registry.”

Elaina Eberz, Chemeketa Community College:

“…I propose the implementation of a special correctional program for those who have been found guilty of false accusation. In this program, the offenders would be under supervision, of course, [and be] required to aid real victims of the crime they falsely claimed was committed… By making them face these situations head-on, the program participants would have a chance to learn that sexual assault and hate crimes are serious problems with real consequences, and their false accusations dismiss the damage they cause.”

Natalie Gibson, University of Kansas:

“I think that a legal consequence for false accusation of a crime could be similar to the consequences associated with defamation. If this course of action makes the most sense in reference to the case at hand, then the consequence will most likely be a civil lawsuit and/or a financial consequence if the person falsely accused can prove there were financial damages.”

“After gathering information on the consequences of defamation and fraud, I think the client’s lawyer should determine the best pathway to justice on behalf of the person wrongfully accused.”

Leah McDonald, Texas Tech University:

“I believe the consequences for making a false accusation should be the same as the crime that they have made the accusation of. One may see my stance on this subject as ‘an eye for an eye’ and may think that this punishment will not solve anything, but I think that if the person making that false accusation would also face the same consequences they were subjecting someone else to, it would make them think twice about making that claim in the first place. If they want to ruin someone else’s life by lying, they should face the same punishment if they’re caught.”

Shukura Cha-Jua, Georgia State University:

“The accuser should be responsible for paying for lost wages, attorney fees, and get jail time. They should have to do no less than an entire year in jail, no bail, no early release, and maybe more depending on how much damage was done to the victim. If it is a highly publicized case then the jail time and the fine should increase.”

Amanda Perkinds, Northwest Mississippi Community College:

“…if the accuser is guilty of a false accusation, then there should be an automatic perjury conviction in addition to a sentencing up to equal time of the crime that was accused. In each case it would be up to the court to decide the severity of the false witness, with genuine mistakes equaling lesser to no charges, while malicious intent, or cases involving wrongful conviction, result in the heavier punishments.”

Matthew Laumer, University of Phoenix:

“The [false] accuser should be held financially accountable for all the losses incurred by the defendant… The accuser also should be liable for repaying any costs that are incurred by law enforcement and other agencies who had to investigate the false accusations.

To help prevent false accusations from happening there should be a criminal charge to the accuser as well.”

Layipaana Yahaya, University of North Texas:

“Someone who makes a false accusation shouldn’t serve more jail/prison time than a perpetrator who committed the actual crime. The United States has a mass incarceration problem and people shouldn’t necessarily serve time unless the crime they committed is violent and/or heinous, though there are exceptions. Paying a hefty fine to the police department for the time and resources they wasted and the ‘suspect’ for defamation should be the course of action.”

Caleigh Pirnik, Atlantic Cape Community College:

“I believe false accusers deserve the same punishment as those accused, no matter how strict the punishment is. If they have the ability and desire to ruin someone else’s life, then they can suffer the consequences for their actions!”

Amina Ramsey, Florida A&M University:

“For those who fabricate accusations against an individual, the legal consequence should be either a fine and/or jail time to serve a maximum of twelve months along with an apology to the person or his or her family. Although these legal consequences cannot eradicate the damage done to the true victim, these legal consequences can give the victim or his or her family a sense of peace knowing that some form of justice has been served.”

Gracie Guidy, Goucher College:

“Restorative justice may seem outside the realm of our legal system… But the truth is jail time, fines, and public shame can only isolate the person. Not the problem.”

Kendall Allen, Spelman College:

“In my opinion, the accuser should have to pay restitution for the damage that they have caused to the individual and/or family (i.e. loss of income, pain and suffering, etc.). Secondly, there should be a mandatory jail sentence… It should be required that they register as someone who has falsely accused another of a crime.”

Brianna Martin, Phoenix Community College:

“I think that the legal consequences for falsely accusing someone of a crime, such as a hate crime or sexual assault should be jail time, restitution, community service, and/or criminal fines. The legal consequences would [depend] on the case… The intent of the accuser should be taken into consideration. Legal consequences should be for those that knowingly and purposely make false accusations. Miscommunications and misidentifications are not made out of malice and therefore should not result in punishment.”

Think you have what it takes to win?

We’d like to give a big thanks to all of the students who participated in this essay contest. We wish you the best in your studies!

Whether you’ve participated in our scholarship contest before or you’d like to compete for our next $1,000 competition, we invite you to visit our Scholarship page soon to see the next essay question and submit your entry. Students must be actively enrolled at the university with a valid student ID number and currently enrolled in classes in order to be eligible.