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In november my dauther (17, foregn exchange student in USA) was accused by her hostfamily of steeling their creditcard, making her a person of interest by the police. Is there any legal consequence for trying to frame a minor, when she is not "a suspect"? We have an email from hostmum stating she is very well connected to the local police.
I am an attorney in the United States. If your daughter is falsely accused of a crime and the police can prove that she is being falsely accused, then the person who is making the accusations can be charged with a criminal offense for making the false accusations. However, simply naming your daughter to the police is not a false accusation -- because she stayed in their home she is a natural suspect whether she committed these offenses or not and the police do have a legal right to investigate her and see if there is anything on the credit card charges that link those charges to her. The only way the host family could be accused of false accusations is if they did something more than give her name and information to the police -- such as they falsely planted evidence on her person that they then claim were items she stole from them or she charged on this credit card -- it would all be in the level of proof that the police would be able to gather against the person who made the false accusations in the first place. But, again, the simple fact that the family gave her name and contact information as a person who lived in the house is not a false accusation -- the police are obligated to investigate anyone who had access to the information that would have enabled the theft of the credit card.
If your daughter is charged, the agency she works for will be notified and she will probably be asked to return voluntarily to that court in Iowa to face an arraignment on a criminal charge (if she does not return voluntarily, the police can put out a warrant for her arrest and then the local police where she is living now can simply come and arrest her and have her transported in handcuffs back to Iowa to face the charges). If she does go to court in Iowa and she does not have the funds to pay for an attorney, the court will appoint an attorney for her and she will have what is called an arraignment - which is just a session where they tell her the charges and she pleads "not guilty" and the court sets a date for trial. The judge will then set a bail amount for her and if the bail is not paid they can put her into the local county jail until the trial date (which can be up to a year after her initial court appearance, so you would want to work with the lawyer to try to pay her bail amount to get her out of jail until the trial). Bail in a case like this as a first offender is usually a few thousand dollars which will be returned to her or the person who posts the bail when she shows up for trial. If she does not show up then she will lose the bail money and a warrant will be put out for her arrest and then the police will start looking for her again. Once she has had an initial court appearance then her lawyer may want to negotiate a plea deal where she serves probation and no jail time so long as she pays for the items put on the charge card -- but if she did NOT do this then she may want to take the matter to trial so that she can convince a jury that she is not guilty. The only problem with going to trial is that even if you are not guilty - if for some reason you are convicted then you usually end up serving actual jail time rather than probation and restitution.
Right now, my suggestion to you is to talk to her and tell her that if she is questioned about this by the police or she is arrested, that she immediately tell them "I want a lawyer" -- if she is clear in her request for a lawyer then the police cannot continue to try to question her and they must go through her lawyer with all questions. The reason I am suggesting this is because many people make the mistake of thinking that they can simply talk to the police and "explain" what happened -- and then the police spend 8, 10, 12 + hours questioning them and what ends up happening is that the person being questioned becomes so exhausted and confused that they end up giving a false confession (it happens more frequently than anyone is even aware of in this country) -- and the police have the legal right to question someone for as long as they want to do so unless the person clearly states "I want a lawyer" (and she cannot say "I think I need a lawyer" -- because if there is any doubt in the statement, our US Supreme Court has ruled that the police can brush aside such a statement and continue the questioning). If you can afford to do so then she may be better off if she speaks to a private lawyer in the county where she is living right now and actually "hire" the attorney for a few hundred dollars before any police start looking for her or want to question her -- then if the police call her or knock at the door she can say "here is the name and contact information for my attorney -- please contact the attorney" and then the attorney will make the police tell him/her what "proof" they supposedly have, if any, against your daughter and the attorney will decide whether or not your daughter should speak to the police (and if she should speak with the police then the attorney will go with her). To find a local attorney you or she should do an online search for Bondurat Iowa Bar Association Attorney Referral -- and you will come up with local county and state attorney referral services and then she can call a few of them and speak with them and proceed from there.
I hope that this helps. Please let me know if you have further questions.
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