What about the consequences?
False allegations have negative consequences, but not for the reasons you might suspect.
The complainant is often charged with a crime similar to filing a false report or perjury. Penalties vary among jurisdictions — from fines to community service and in some cases jail time — depending on the expended resources.
Some analysts expressed concern that false allegations may cause law enforcement to not treat reports seriously. But Chicago’s police chief on Thursday reassured the public that his force will continue to take all hate crime complaints seriously, just as it did Smollett’s.
His concern, he said, is that the public will view hate crime reports “with a level of skepticism” higher than before because of the media attention this case received.
CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson expressed similar concerns about how the case might impact victims’ willingness to come forward. “It’s already hard to get people to come forward, for a variety of reasons, so there’s the concern that publicity around these cases might deter them.”
But the actual impact of the publicity surrounding allegations of false reports on victims is unclear.
Lawyers and advocates who work with hate crime survivors said the real problem is that hate crimes are underreported for a variety of reasons that appear to have nothing to do with false allegations.
Fears of retaliation or that law enforcement won’t take them seriously tend to be the most common reasons people don’t report hate crimes, said Nadia Aziz, interim co-director of the Stop Hate Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
At least 50% of hate crime victims don’t report the incidents to authorities, according to data from 2011 to 2015 from the Bureau of Justice Statistics
“A high-profile case riddled with controversy is the exception,” said Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute, an advocacy group that tracks hate crimes nationwide.
“The more common problem, and one that should demand the attention of law enforcement, more headlines and should be the lead in our never-ending social media feeds, is the undisputed problem of underreporting of hate crimes.”