There are few things worse in life than being accused of something that you did not do. However, when you are accused of committing a crime that you had nothing to do with, this takes things to an entirely new level. This is actually quite serious in that it could lead to you being arrested, charged, and found guilty.

According to the Innocence Project, between 2.3 percent and 5 percent of all prisoners in the United States are actually innocent. That equates to roughly 20,000 people who are still in prison for a crime that they did not commit. Therefore, having someone point a finger at you, claiming that you are guilty of something, is downright frightening.

Often, a person who makes false accusations is a jilted lover, ex-husband, ex-wife, former boyfriend, or former girlfriend. However, it could also be a co-worker, neighbor, friend, or even family member who feels he or she has to get even on some score. People are also misidentified by witnesses or accused because of a poor police investigation.

While being accused of a crime that you did not commit is extremely hurtful and unnerving, it is important to know that you have options for recourse. The first and most important step is to contact a reputable attorney. In addition, you should begin gathering as much physical evidence as possible. This includes anything relating to the incident, such as videos, photographs, clothing, handwritten notes, text messages, and so on.

Especially if the accusation has something to do with your business, you also want to collect evidence in the form of financial records; business contracts; legal records; letters; airline, rental car, and hotel receipts; GPS records; phone messages; emails; and anything else that you can think of that would verify your exact whereabouts at the time of the incident. That way, you have a solid alibi that proves your innocence.

Once you have all of the evidence collected, make a list of everything. You should also try to reach any witnesses who could vouch for you at the time of the alleged crime. As part of that, be sure you get names, addresses, phone numbers, and work contact information so that your attorney can investigate further.

Although there are times when going directly to the person who has accused you of a crime to discuss matters is appropriate, you have to remember that if someone was brazen enough to make a false accusation against you, that person will likely have no interest in talking. In fact, talking to the individual could make matters much worse.

Depending on the type and severity of the accusation, your attorney can send out a cease and desist letter that advises the individual to stop making false allegations. You may also be advised to take out a restraining order if you or your loved ones feel threatened. Your attorney will take all of the evidence that you gathered and begin an independent investigation. This may include talking to the police and requesting DNA tests, among other things.

The bottom line: If you are accused of a crime that you did not commit, it is vital to act appropriately for full protection. When in this kind of situation, contacting a qualified attorney who can answer questions and provide guidance is imperative.