Accusation Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Accusation, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Accusation?

n. charge made against someone who has committed a crime, so that he may be brought to justice and punishment. It is worth nothing that no man is bound to accuse himself, or to testify against himself in a criminal case.

History and Meaning of Accusation

Accusation is a legal term that goes back to ancient Roman Law. Under Roman Law, an accusation was the formal charge made against a person who had committed a crime, bringing them to justice and punishment. In modern Western legal systems, accusations continue to play an essential role in the criminal justice process, as an accusation is the formal statement of a criminal offense, typically lodged by a prosecutor or by a grand jury through an indictment, though also possible by a private individual through a criminal complaint, after which legal proceedings will begin.

In the context of criminal law, an accusation may be made when law enforcement officials believe that there is probable cause that a person committed a crime, or when a victim of a crime comes forward with information about an alleged crime. While a prosecutor can direct an accusation towards an individual, the person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until a court of law determines otherwise.

Examples of Accusation

  1. In a criminal trial, the prosecutor brought forth the accusation that the defendant had committed the murder of the victim.
  2. A victim of sexual assault came forward with an accusation of rape against their perpetrator to law enforcement.
  3. Accusations of corruption and fraud within a company led to an investigation by law enforcement officials into the business practices of the organization.
  4. The accusation that a person had stolen property from a store led to their arrest and prosecution for petty theft.
  5. An online commenter made an accusation that a public figure had engaged in illegal activity, which subsequently led to a defamation lawsuit.

Legal Terms Similar to Accusation

  • Indictment: a formal charge issued by a grand jury that accuses an individual of committing a crime.
  • Plaintiff: the party that initiates a lawsuit by making a legal claim against another person or entity.
  • Allegation: a statement of fact that is yet to be proven, typically in the context of a legal proceeding.