It can sometimes feel as though you are powerless if you ever find yourself in the crosshairs of a mean-spirited individual who wants to make life more difficult for you. However, there are legal avenues that can help protect people, such as malicious prosecution claims.
This article will focus on the matter of malicious prosecution, and after reading it, you should recognize if it’s happening to you.
To get started, let’s first clearly define the term itself.
What Is Malicious Prosecution?
Malicious prosecution refers to the act of filing a lawsuit against someone even though the case itself has no merit. It may lack merit because it lacks probable cause or because it has an improper purpose, per Cornell Law School.
If you believe that you are on the receiving end of malicious prosecution, you can take proper legal action by filing a claim that alleges exactly that.
You can file malicious prosecution lawsuits against regular individuals who are not practicing lawyers or even against prosecutors. In the case of the former, the malicious prosecution lawsuit would be a civil case. It would then be a criminal case if filed against a prosecutor.
The Role Played by Malicious Prosecution Lawsuits
Courts are generally discerning when it comes to malicious prosecution cases because there is always a concern that they could significantly impact how they handle future cases.
Too many lawsuits of malicious prosecution reaching the courts could influence how people behave. Individuals may be more hesitant to sue if they believe the person, they are filing against will go for a malicious prosecution claim.
It can also affect prosecutors since they may shy away from pursuing certain cases, knowing they can be charged with a malicious prosecution lawsuit.
It’s easy to understand why courts become very picky with regards to malicious prosecution cases. At the same time, though, these cases are important because they serve as a way of keeping potentially abusive individuals and prosecutors in check.
Don’t let the picky nature of the courts when it comes to allowing malicious prosecution cases to go through deter you from taking action. If you have a legitimate case, you must pursue it, and the people trying to get away with abuse of the legal system must be reprimanded.
How Does Prosecutorial Immunity Affect Malicious Prosecution Cases?
They grant prosecutors what is known as prosecutorial immunity so they can move forward with cases without constantly dealing with lawsuits that hamper their capabilities. The immunity gives prosecutors the rights they need to go after individuals who break the law and attempt to bog down the legal proceedings with a constant barrage of frivolous lawsuits.
So, does that mean that you are out of luck if you are looking to file a case against a prosecutor? Not necessarily.
As long as your particular case possesses all the elements needed to levy a malicious prosecution claim and you can prove that the prosecutor who handled your case was acting well beyond his/her authority to go after you, there is a chance that you will win.
Speaking of those elements…
The Elements of a Malicious Prosecution Case
According to LegalDictionary.net, there are four elements that must be present in a malicious prosecution case. Lacking any one of the following elements will make it nearly impossible for your case to turn out successfully. They may even dismiss it right away.
Let’s start by discussing the first element.
The Outcome of the Original Case Favored the Plaintiff Who Was Initially the Defendant
Given that malicious prosecution claims are all about proving that the case levied against you did not have merit, to begin with, it should come as no surprise that one of the requirements is that you win that case.
That also means that you will have to wait before the original case is over before filing suit. Filing your malicious prosecution lawsuit soon after they close the original case is important. If enough time passes, the courts may no longer grant you the opportunity to file your countersuit.
The Defendant in the Malicious Prosecution Case Must Have Been the Person Who Filed the Original Case
Let’s provide an example for this next point.
The plaintiff in your original case may be the resident of a home that you allegedly trespassed, which is why that person is filing an intentional tort case against you. Witnesses are even brought in and provide what is eventually proven to be false testimony.
The case proceeds and you get your day in court, where they prove, you did not trespass. You cannot file a malicious prosecution lawsuit against everyone. Even if they brought in a witness who lied and said you did trespass, you should lodge your malicious prosecution complaint against that person.
Instead, the target of your claim should be the individual responsible for bringing the case to court.
You can do that as well if you want to file a malicious prosecution claim against the lead prosecutor in your original case.
The Defendant Had No Reasonable Grounds to File the Original Case
When you file a case against someone in court, the assumption is you believe that the person you’re accusing is guilty or liable for what happened in some way. This should be true even if you are citing negligence in your case. After all, the reason why people file cases in court is to hold individuals accountable for breaking the law.
Now, let’s say that the person who originally filed against you never believed that you were guilty of the crime they said you committed. That is when filing your own malicious prosecution claim is warranted.
A scenario such as that would mean that the person who initially filed against you is wasting your time, as well as the time of everyone else involved in the proceedings.
Proving that the defendant never believed you were guilty is a tough request, and it’s part of the reason why more than a few malicious prosecution claims never make it to court. Still, if you can manage to accomplish that, the odds of the court favoring you a second time will increase significantly.
The Defendant Filed the Original Case for a Malicious Reason
It’s called malicious prosecution for a reason.
Accusing someone of a crime can subject the individual in question to all kinds of challenges. Defending yourself against a crime you did not commit is incredibly stressful. On top of that, you may deplete your finances because of what’s going on.
People who are accused of a crime may also have their reputations damaged, and there’s no guarantee that they will ever recover from that. Even in cases where someone wrongfully accused was eventually found innocent, that individual may still have a hard time finding a job because he/she becomes closely associated with a crime he/she did not commit.
Once again, you will face the difficult task of trying to prove that someone was only out to injure you in some way if you want your malicious prosecution claim to have any chance of succeeding. The odds of you managing that are not great, but they can still work out for you.
What Factors Can Increase the Chances of a Malicious Prosecution Case Succeeding?
The four elements mentioned above must be present in your malicious prosecution case for it to succeed. However, you should know that jurors may consider additional factors while deliberating the merits of your countersuit.
Another thing they may consider is the impact that the original case had on you.
Let’s say, for example, that you had to spend time in jail because of the charges made against you or you lost out on a job opportunity because your potential employer learned about what was going on. You will likely garner sympathy from the members of the jury because they can grasp how damaging the original case was.
No one should ever be wrongfully sent to jail or subjected to mental and emotional distress. It’s not enough consolation, but what you went through can still prove beneficial to you in the end.
The members of the jury may also weigh the conduct displayed by the defendant throughout the proceedings of the original case. Their conduct is even more important if the things they did cause you harm.
Is There Any Other Scenario Where You Can File a Malicious Prosecution Claim?
Even though it is known as a malicious prosecution claim, you don’t necessarily need to be prosecuted before you can file a countersuit.
The best example of this involves search warrants.
They may have released a search warrant to authorize a search of your property. Issuing a search warrant is not wrong, but it can be if the individual did it with malicious intent.
You will need to prove they should not have issued the search warrant. To do that, you will need to show there was no probable cause for them to search you and that the person who ordered it did so intending to injure you or cause you distress.
What Kind of Compensation Can You Receive if You Win Your Malicious Prosecution Case?
Going through with filing a malicious prosecution case may not be an appealing proposition to everyone, even those they wronged.
It’s hard to blame them for feeling that way too because going through one trial may be enough reason for you to never want to experience another one, especially if you were the one accused of a crime.
There are good reasons to proceed with a malicious prosecution suit, though.
For one, doing so would hold people responsible for their harmful actions. You are doing something that will discourage them from abusing the law in the future.
The other reason to continue with your malicious prosecution claim is because of the compensation you may receive. The final amount of compensation you can receive from a successful malicious prosecution claim can be substantial.
They may give you the monetary award for any wages lost because you were unable to go to work, or even compensate for you losing your job because of the case. They may also give you the money you spent to defend yourself in the original case, along with any other fees you paid throughout the proceedings.
They can also provide additional compensation to you if they find that the original case harmed your reputation and caused you distress.
The judge presiding over the case may also order the defendant to pay punitive damages. They determine the final amount of punitive damages you can receive by factors such as the conduct exhibited by the defendant. The judge may justify ordering the defendant to pay a high amount for punitive damages so that he/she will no longer be inclined to repeat this violation of the law.
You could also be in line to receive punitive damages if the initial compensation is not substantial enough for what you went through.
To put it simply, you should go ahead and file a malicious prosecution claim to make an abusive person pay in more ways than one.
What You Should Do if You Want to File a Malicious Prosecution Claim
Malicious prosecution cases are not the easiest ones to win. A lot of things need to be in your favor, including proving matters they can deny.
Do not fret, though. There are legal professionals out there who are looking out for individuals who are being victimized by abusive people taking advantage of the justice system. Get in touch with them to get a better read on your specific case and ask them how you should proceed.
You don’t need to look far for those professionals if you live in California. The highly skilled and experienced lawyers of Batta Fulkerson will go to bat for you as you aim to prove that malicious prosecution took place.
Contact Batta Fulkerson to receive the expert legal representation you deserve