What Are the Laws on False Accusations?

Knowingly making a false accusation is a crime. Providing false statements to law enforcement about another individual, or lying under oath in a court of law (perjury), are both felonies at the federal level, notes ABC News. An individual who lies under oath can be punished by up to five years in prison. An individual who makes false statements to investigators faces up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine, according to the Legal Information Institute.

Laws on perjury and making false statements vary at the state level but typically include fines and/or prison terms, reports FindLaw. Even if an individual is not prosecuted for making false accusations, he can be sued for defamation of character or slander. If the falsely accused is convicted, he can sue the prosecuting attorney or municipality for malicious prosecution or false imprisonment, according to AllLaw.

Someone who is the target of false accusations can file a civil lawsuit seeking damages for libel (if the false accusation was published in print) or slander. Compensation is normally awarded for emotional distress and damage to reputation. Since government officials such as prosecutors and law enforcement officers are often immune to civil lawsuits, there are additional challenges for potential litigants who wish to sue, notes Criminal Defense Lawyer. The individual bringing the lawsuit must prove that the prosecutor acted outside his authority in pursuing a criminal case.