North Carolina needs more protection against filing false charges (a personal story)
Cross-posted at dKos
Last week, I mentioned how a Charlotte cop was caught trying to coach a victim's identifying a suspect in a robbery/carjacking case. He was only caught because the victim was a lawyer, and felt morally obligated as an officer of the court to report the officer's actions--even if it meant that the suspect would likely go free. It brought back bad memories of when I was the victim of false charges back in 2006, in the midst of leaving a bad marriage. If the DA handling the case had the same pangs as that lawyer had had, I wouldn't have had to endure the mental anguish of having to go to court for something I didn't do.
I was horrified to discover that North Carolina doesn't require a DA to personally meet with a victim prior to the case. It seems to be simple common sense. I'm no expert, but it would seem to me that our DAs' caseloads would be significantly reduced if you get rid of cases that really have no business being before the court. Not to mention the fact that retaliatory charges, such as I experienced, rise to the level of obstruction of justice.
While I was getting ready to leave my now ex-wife back in August 2006 (I've been living with my mom since then), her son gave me a savage beating. So naturally, I pressed charges. He was arrested the day after Labor Day. That Saturday morning, I got an unpleasant surprise--the police showed up at my door. It turned out that literally hours after her son had been arrested, my ex turned around and accused me of forcing the daughter of a close friend of hers to watch X-rated movies and threatening to beat her up if she told anyone. My mom and I showed the charge sheet to my lawyer--himself a former DA--and almost immediately he said that this was retaliation. That gave me hope that the DA handling the case would see this as well--and not only would I be cleared, but my ex would be racked up for perjury and suborning perjury. But that never happened--and I had to endure the rigmarole of having to go to court twice (she never showed up for court--I'm assuming that she thought my family would abandon me, forcing me to roll over for want of support) and three months of having to call pretrial release every Monday. All because we obviously need a law to make DAs do what they should be morally obligated to do.
I'm almost certain that the DA handling my ex's case never met with her. Why? The first time I saw a DA in the case where her son beat me up was on the day we went to court. I was under the impression that such a meeting would be a no-brainer. After all, if the DA handling her case had looked at the time my ex made her false complaint and realized it came literally hours after her son was arrested, that should have raised some eyebrows. If I'd been a DA meeting with my ex, I'd have told her, "You'd better have a damn good explanation for this exceptional timing, or else you're going to be up on perjury charges."
To my mind, the prospect of false reporting and perjury charges simply aren't enough of a deterrent. What I believe North Carolina needs is a law requiring the DA handling each criminal case to personally meet with the defendant at least three weeks prior to the court date. That would allow enough time to find out if the charges were false. Further, anyone filing false charges should be on the hook for any legal expenses, lost wages, etc. incurred by someone having to defend himself against false charges. Presently, something like this is a civil matter, but it needs to be criminal. Had that been the case, I don't think my ex would have pulled this stunt.
I plan to write my state senator and state representative later this week asking if anything can be done. But it's gonna take a lot more than just one email. The sooner this loophole can be closed, the better.
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