Prosecutors are given a significant amount of discretion when it comes to charging defendants with crimes. Unfortunately, this power is often abused, leaving innocent people to be accused of serious criminal offenses. However, this type of conduct is not limited to criminal cases, as it is also possible for a private citizen to file a false claim against another person or entity in civil court for the purpose of harassment or of shifting blame. In either case, the target of the false accusations can file a suit based on malicious prosecution and if successful, can recover compensation for their losses. Filing this type of claim is difficult, as it requires proof of a number of different complex elements, so if you were falsely accused of a crime, it is critical to contact a Franklin County malicious prosecution lawyer who has the experience and resources to protect your rights and interests.
In order to be successful, victims of malicious prosecution must prove that:
Criminal cases can only be filed against defendants when prosecutors have probable cause to believe that they are guilty. Essentially, this means that prosecutors and plaintiffs can only file a lawsuit against a defendant if they have a reasonable belief in that party’s guilt. The probable cause and intent elements of a malicious prosecution case are closely linked, as proof of a lack of probable cause can also help demonstrate that a proceeding was initiated without a proper purpose, whether it be malice, ill will, or any reason other than bringing the plaintiff to justice. Most defendants will not admit to having an improper purpose, so this element is usually inferred from the specific circumstances of the case. Fortunately, courts are often willing to infer an improper purpose if there is a lack of probable cause.
The final element is one of the most important in a malicious prosecution case and requires proof that the prior proceedings, whether criminal or civil in nature, were not only resolved in the plaintiff’s favor but also indicated in some way, that the accused was innocent. For this reason, a settlement or plea deal does not qualify as favorable termination. In fact, even dismissals based on procedural or constitutional violations do not qualify as a resolution for purposes of a malicious prosecution claim because they do not involve a determination of the accused’s innocence.
Plaintiffs who are successful in their malicious prosecution claims can recover damages from the defendant, compensating them for mental suffering, loss of reputation, and humiliation, as well as attorneys’ fees and court costs. If the original case involved criminal charges, a plaintiff could also collect compensation for injury to health and deprivation of time with family members, and in some cases, may also be eligible for punitive damages.
If you believe that a prosecutor has filed charges against you, not because you broke the law, but to cause you harm or harass you, please call (614) 463-9790 to speak with one of the experienced malicious prosecution attorneys at Marshall Forman & Schlein LLC today.
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