Can you be arrested and charged based solely on someone making an accusation of a crime

If someone says ‘So ans So sold me drugs/robbed me/raped me/threatened to kill me/etc’ and there is no other evidence (no other witnesses, no physical evidence, no video/audio, etc) to support the assertion of a crime other than one person’s hearsay, is that sufficient evidence to arrest and charge someone, or is that alone not enough? Or does it depend on the crime?

I’m under the impression it starts with an investigation where the person being investigated is free to leave. After that comes the arrest (you are no longer free to leave after that), after that comes the conviction. The process could break down at any step.

DAs and prosecutors want to win as many cases as possible, so I assume most would not take on a case with no evidence other than one person saying a crime happened. But I have no idea about the motives of police, if police are affected by having arrests that do not result in prosecutions and as a result if they are motivated to arrest as many people as possible irrelevant of whether it results in a conviction, or if they are motivated to only arrest when a conviction is likely, or it is not a factor or what.

It depends on how credible you are vs how credible the complainant is. If the complainant is substantially more credible than you then they will make a charge. And they are certainly going to do this only after a lengthy interview of both you and the complainant. And note if you have a history of a certain activity you are not very credible at all.

First things first- if I say you robbed me, that’s not hearsay. Hearsay would be if my brother testified that I told him you robbed me.
To some extent whether a victim’s statement alone is enough is going to depend on the specifics of the crime and the relative credibility of the parties. Some crimes don’t necessarily leave any evidence while others do , so my statement alone may be enough to arrest my ex who I accuse of banging on my door threatening to kill me while it won’t be enough if I claim he stabbed me but I have no wounds. Or maybe I say you robbed me, but all you took was cash, nothing distinctive like jewelry or my phone. Sometimes it’s not exactly the victim’s statement alone. For example, the victim and the accused may both agree on certain elements of the crime but disagree on others , such as consent. You’re driving the car I reported stolen. You say you had permission to drive the car and I say you didn’t. I accuse you of rape, but you say I consented. In those sorts of cases, there’s not going to be any absolute proof one way or the other. A lot of cases come down to credibility. People get arrested and plead guilty or get convicted based on one person’s testimony all the time.

You can be convicted on the credible testimony of one person. How else should (for instance) someone who mugs someone, who has enough brains not to do so in front of cameras or witnesses and to discard the wallet, be convicted? Practically, if it’s the sort of crime that you expect to leave evidence but it didn’t (“he kicked the hell out of me” but no discernible injuries) that may weigh badly on credibility.

A person cannot be convicted on his confession alone and it must be corroborated in some way. That’s the corpus delicti rule of Perry Mason fame.

Any cites for this? I can’t think of case where someone was prosecuted and convicted by a jury purely on the basis of a victims testimony and nothing else, with no other witnesses or corroborating evidence of any kind (though IANAL).

With many crimes in which a lot of time has elapsed, isn’t there often no evidence to go by other than simply one person’s word?

Adnan Syed? I know they manufactured additional “evidence” later but IIRC he was arrested on one persons say so alone.

Some Duke Lacrosse members would like a word from ten years ago. I believe it was in the news.

Legally, in most jurisdictions there is no bar. Practically speaking, no, not usually.

You will notice that the bible tells you that the crime of rape must be witnessed if witnesses might have witnessed it. (“in a city area”).

But there has been a trend in the last 20 or so years, in Western /Westminster jurisdictions, to make the law say that the the lack of corroborating evidence is no barrier to prosecution of all levels of sexual assaults, any of the touching and rape and the attempt of.
One trouble is though, the court might have considered if the victims story makes sense without any corroborating evidence…

There was someone who posted here once that he had been walking at night, the police picked him up and the victim of a nearby crime “identified” him. He was headed for trial but I never saw an update.

No specific cite- but many crimes don’t have any other evidence than the victim’s testimony. For example, most misdemeanor assaults, harassment and robberies don’t have any witnesses or evidence. And the there’s also the other category I mentioned, where only the victim’s testimony regarding one element of the crime establishes it as a crime.

More importantly, though, I didn’t say convicted by a jury. I said convicted or plead guilty. I don’t sit in courtrooms all day to know if people had a jury trial, a bench trial or pled guilty. I do spend a decent part of my day reading arrest reports and presentence reports that describe crimes with no other witnesses or evidence. But remember, when someone shoplifts from a small store* or gets on the bus without paying or slaps his girlfriend or is in possession of a stolen car those crimes don’t make the news. You wouldn’t have any reason to know about them unless you know either the victim or the defendant. And that sort of crime happens far more often than the newsworthy cases.

  • lots of small stores have a a camera (which may even work) at the counter, but don’t have video of the whole store.

You don’t need a jury because most convictions don’t come from jury trials. I was the first ‘victim’ of an armed robbery case in December 1999. I put that in quotes because the two attackers didn’t get anything and I injured one of them in the brief conflict before I escaped. They were ambitious and went on to commit several successful armed robberies in the next hour while the gang squad was looking for them because they were habitual offenders who had just gotten out of prison and the 911 operator knew exactly which violent Beavis and Butthead type pair I was referring to even in a huge city because that that is what they were expected to do.

For some reason, every other witness, even the one that was being held down and threatened with her life when they were caught, refused to testify so my charges were the only ones that could stand. I was a darling of the Boston DA for two years and met with his office several times with the full intention of preparing for trial. It never came to that and they eventually plead guilty on a plea deal that got them an additional 3 and 5 years in maximum security respectively.

That said, I was the only witness to it because it happened on a deserted street late at night and none of the other witness testimony from later crimes would have been allowed in court. It was just me against them and they went straight back to very real prison for it.

Many men were not only arrested for rape, but also convicted. Then along came DNA testing and they found many of these men were actually innocent!

You can be arrested and most likely indicted by a Grand Jury, but the complainant would have to be extremely credible and not change a single bit of their story, and the defendant would have to be very discreditable, have a motive to have any reasonable jury to convict. Obviously the type of crime being accused has a large bearing on the decision. If it was a he said she said case about a rape and there was no evidence of sex then obviously the jury wouldn’t convict. In any case there’s likely to be some evidence, so you wouldn’t be convicted solely on the say so of the plaintiff. if it was an assault or a mugging you’d likely have a bruise, a mark, some sort of injury. If there was no other evidence I wouldn’t convict.

Considering how many people are in jail, less than two dozen men doesn’t seem like “many”.

There are cases.

Here’s one:

The article wonders how Montgomery was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt – but from the standpoint of legal sufficiency, a single witness meets the legal standard for the requisite evidence necessary for conviction.

Montgomery v. Commonwealth, 751 S.E.2d 692 (2013), is the case cite for the story I just posted.

As I recall, there were a LOT more innocent men accused of rape than two dozen…

How about the Ronald Cotton case? He was convicted of rape based solely on the identification of his victim. DNA later exonerated him.

There must be dozens, even hundreds of other examples.