It is common to refer to the person charged with a crime as “the accused.” You will remain the accused person until your case is either cleared in the court of law and you are free to go, or you are convicted of the charged crime.
Synonyms can include being called the “defendant,” “suspect,” or “alleged offender,” which means you are the person defending yourself against the charges in a criminal case. The accuser is the other party involved in the prosecution.
Being accused of a crime means you have been told there are formal allegations against you. It differs from these legal terms in the following ways:
If someone accuses you of an alleged crime, keep in mind you are innocent until proven guilty.
If you are found guilty of the criminal offense, you will go from being the accused to the convicted. If you were found innocent, then you will become acquitted. If you were found guilty and later found innocent, you are exonerated. Some courts may use other versions of these terms.
The judge or other court officials might refer to you as “the accused” during trials or court appearances. But, it is more common to be called “the defendant.” Some media outlets will use the term “the accused” to appeal to readers that may not understand legal terms.
Reporters frequently refer to defendants this way. For example, they might say: “the accused was brought to the stand” or “the accused stood trial today.”
If you wish to accuse someone of a suspected crime, you should speak to an attorney or call the police. Law enforcement or legal professionals can examine the claims and determine if there is evidence for a case.
Once you accuse someone else of a crime, the courts will take over the process until the accused has been found guilty or innocent. You may be called to give testimony or evidence supporting your claims. Accusing someone for no reason is called a false accusation and you can be fined or serve jail time.
An arrest and conviction can change everything. Fines or time in jail are the immediate concern, but a conviction will also mean a criminal record that can make it harder to find a job and housing for years to come. If you are arrested or learn you are under investigation, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. You can search LawInfo’s legal directory to find a local criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and help you determine the best way to proceed with mounting a defense.