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What is an Allegation?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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An allegation is a claim of wrongdoing which can be made by a third party or by someone who believes that he or she has been wronged in some way. For example, a newspaper could allege that a government agency is not following its own policies when it comes to enforcing regulations, or someone could claim that a neighborhood resident broke a window in a home. Generally, allegations are made when the alleging party believes that the allegation is factually true and that information can be mustered to support it. However, in some cases, an allegation may be baseless, without any facts to back it up.

In court, an allegation is a formal accusation which will be explored during the course of a trial. In many regions, the burden of proof lies on the party making the allegation, in which case they must demonstrate that the allegation is true while the defense attempts to show that it is not. Both sides may call witnesses and present evidence to support their interpretation of the case, and when the trial ends, the goal is to have presented the case convincingly enough that the judge or jury believes it.

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Outside of court, newspapers and other news media are often the most likely to make allegations, asserting factual information on the basis of investigative journalism. Sometimes these allegations later develop into legal cases, as when a television station suggests that someone is breaking the law. In other cases, they are designed to draw attention to community issues which are not getting enough coverage. The actions discussed in the allegation may be technically legal in these cases, but ethically questionable.

The media have to be careful about how an allegation is framed, and about how reporting on people who have been accused of crimes is presented. People may be able to bring suit if they feel that reporting was erroneous or damaged their reputations. For example, when reporting on a murder trial, the media cannot say “the murderer opted not to testify in the case, on advice of the legal team,” and must say instead “the alleged murderer...” to stress that the trial has not yet been completed and the defendant stands only accused, not guilty.

Before making an allegation, people are usually strongly encouraged to gather facts and information to support it. If someone makes repeated baseless allegations, accusations in the future may carry less weight, even if they are actually based in verifiable fact.

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icecream17
Post 5

@Cupcake15 - I am glad that that story turned out well. I think that the word allegation is a safe legal term to really say that these charges are against a person and we don’t know if they are guilty or innocent.

For example, if a teacher makes child abuse allegations against a parent, although we don’t know if the bruising that the child received was a result of child abuse or not just having the allegations of something like this floating around leads most people to think that the parents were guilty.

The same is true with child molestation. We tend to believe that these allegations are true even if we have no proof of it. I was

reading a story about a nasty divorce in which the wife was accusing the husband of molesting their daughter, and it turned out that the wife made up the whole story and as a result the husband got full custody of the child because the judge felt that the mother was abusive.

I have to say that when I was reading the story, I initially jumped to the conclusion that the father must have been guilty. I think this is why we have to be careful with allegations because they are not statements of fact.

cupcake15
Post 4

@Nanny3 – I agree with you. This is why in the legal system we have to be careful with making false allegations about someone because until we know all of the facts, the charges against a person are considered an allegation.

As for eyewitness testimony, there have been many cases in which eyewitness testimony has been disproven. For example, I was watching a case about a man that had a previous criminal record that was accused of robbing a victim at gunpoint.

The victim gave eyewitness testimony and said that the defendant was the one that robbed him. Since the man had a previous criminal record and the victim gave eye witness testimony that the defendant was the

one that robbed him there was an assertion of guilt that convicted the defendant.

Years later, his wife hired a private investigator and with the help of another attorney they were able to prove that the man was innocent of the crime, because the defendant was 6’1” tall, but the perpetrator was actually 5’7” tall and the defendant was released after serving nearly ten years in prison.

I think that this is why we have to be careful with eyewitness testimony because sometimes people connect the wrong dots and an innocent person pays the price.

nanny3
Post 3

@Domido - Yes, I see your point clearly, but we have to consider the reasons behind why we do such things.

Sometimes crimes seem clear cut and easy to assess, but a little deeper investigation uncovers hidden truths. The whole idea of somebody ‘allegedly’ doing something until proven guilty is designed to protect the innocent.

Take your example above. What if the ten eye witnesses were gang members who saw their leader shoot the victim? What if the actual shooter gave his younger brother the gun and told him to confess? What if the younger brother did just that out of love for his brother?

Let’s just say that the only thing that disproved the whole fraudulent allegation

was the fact that the older brother, the real shooter, had gun powder on his shooting hand while his brother did not.

I don’t know; maybe I watch too much Law and Order, but it just seems best to protect those who can’t protect themselves. Even if at times it seems absurd, it also seems like a worthy cause to me.

Domido
Post 2

Sometimes the idea of legal allegations drives me utterly and absolutely insane. It is just entirely frivolous and unnecessary at times.

For instance, this guy is seen shooting a person by ten eye witnesses. The police find him with a gun matching the ballistics of the gunshot of the victim. He signs a confession that he shot the victim. And yet, legally we have to say he allegedly shot somebody until he’s tried.

How ridiculous! Sometimes it’s just plain, flat obvious that somebody did something. I do understand the point behind it, but sometimes it seems that we are overthinking the basics and letting the bigger issues slide.

That is called cutting one’s nose off to spite one's own face.

tlcJPC
Post 1

Anymore there are so many different kinds of allegations floating around that I really have no clue what to believe. They are everywhere, but particularly in the media.

You know, I really couldn’t care less what Charlie Sheen is doing or Paris Hilton or Justin Bieber. Granted, these guys are big figures, but I find it incredibly hard to believe that any normal, regular person really gives a flip about all of the allegations going around about them at any given time.

The fact is that a lot of the allegations are false, and even worse is that many of them are true. It stresses me out, and I have enough to stress out about in my own life without worrying about uber-millionaires' issues.

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