Getting wrongfully accused of and prosecuted for a crime can cost you your reputation, your career, and thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend yourself. If the police and prosecutors misuse their authority intentionally, they might get sued for malicious prosecution.
It is an uphill battle to prove that malicious prosecution happened, so you should talk to a civil rights attorney if you think you were targeted and prosecuted unfairly. The first step is to learn what is malicious prosecution.
What Constitutes Malicious Prosecution?
In a perfect world, the police enforce the law fairly and do not target anyone based on bias or personal vendettas. Also, prosecutors will ideally only choose to prosecute cases in which there is probable cause and sufficient credible evidence.
When there are no reasonable grounds to start criminal proceedings against someone, yet a prosecutor wrongfully goes forward to take action on charges brought maliciously by the police, that situation can be malicious prosecution. The criminal defendant might be able to file a lawsuit in civil court, seeking money damages for the harm done by the wrongful prosecution of frivolous charges.
What Do You Have to Prove to Win a Malicious Prosecution Lawsuit?
You must be able to prove all of these factors to win a malicious prosecution lawsuit:
- The defendant started or continued a criminal case against you.
- You won the criminal case.
- There was no probable cause for starting the criminal case against you.
- The reason the defendant began or continued the criminal case against you was malice.
- You experienced damages or injury because of the criminal case filed and prosecuted against you.
It can be quite challenging to prove what someone intended to do and what the motivation was for their actions, but it is possible.
What Happens if the Prosecutor Discovers During the Criminal Case That There is No Probable Cause?
Sometimes, a prosecutor starts prosecuting an individual and learns that the evidence does not provide reasonable grounds for the charged offense. Even if the prosecutor genuinely believed there was probable cause at the beginning of the case, the prosecutor should not continue the prosecution. If the prosecutor has wrongful reasons for refusing to drop the case, that situation can be malicious prosecution.
What is Malice for Purposes of a Malicious Prosecution Case?
At one end of the fairness in law enforcement and prosecution spectrum is filing charges and prosecuting criminal cases as if blindfolded; in other words, without regard to a person’s politics, gender, race, religion, or history. At the other end of this spectrum is using the criminal justice system as one’s personal battering ram to make specific people “suffer” because of the color of their skin, the clothes they wear, or previous interactions.
Arresting and prosecuting someone because of a grudge, for example, can be malice. It can be malicious to file charges or prosecute an individual with the intent of intimidating or harassing the person or damaging the criminal defendant’s social standing.
If you win your malicious prosecution lawsuit, you might get an award of monetary compensation for your losses, including lost income, emotional distress, damage to your reputation, attorney fees, court costs, and other money damages, depending on the facts of your situation.
A civil rights attorney can talk to you and evaluate whether you might have a claim for malicious prosecution. Contact our office today for a free consultation.