What Is Malicious Prosecution?

When civil lawsuits or criminal charges are maliciously filed with the intention to harass, intimidate, defame, or cause injuries to another person, actions are referred to as malicious prosecution.

Understanding Malicious Prosecution Claims

Malicious prosecution occurs when one party knowingly and maliciously initiates a baseless claim against another party without probable cause. The claim can take the form of a civil or criminal lawsuit, but the basic cause of action remains the same. While criminal attorneys must establish proof of guilt, attorneys in civil cases must prove quantifiable damages such as costs related to property damages, medical injuries, loss of income, and pain and suffering.

When one party files a malicious prosecution lawsuit against another party, the accused can retaliate with an intentional dignitary tort action. This action allows the accused party to file an injury claim for abuse of process and emotional distress. In some cases, prosecutors pursue civil or criminal actions without just cause, so this tort provides an essential check on claims filed with malicious intent for potential abuses.

In a malicious prosecution claim, courts usually agree on basic requirements of the claim, but some states may vary slightly. Generally, basic requirements include:

  • The original claim was brought with intention to cause harm
  • The original claim was brought without any probable cause
  • The original claim was instigated with malicious forethought
  • The original claim resulted in civil or criminal litigation
  • The civil or criminal litigation caused harm or injury to the defendant
  • The prior litigation was dismissed in favor of the plaintiff

Most states allow recovery for malicious prosecution claims based on civil lawsuits, if the the defendant in the original case can prove malicious intent and lack of probable cause. In general, any criminal proceeding filed with intent to cause harm and that lacks probable cause may give rise to a malicious prosecution claim, even if the claimant was convicted. Even a search warrant issued without probable cause may trigger a malicious prosecution claim by a criminal defense attorney.

Actual damages for a malicious prosecution claim depend on the severity of emotional and physical damages caused to the wrongfully accused. In criminal cases, emotional pain is more severe, if the claim filed with malicious intent resulted in criminal charges and a conviction resulted in jail time. In many cases, a jury finds that the fear of a criminal trial and conviction alone is enough to award damages for severe emotional distress.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

One of the questions people facing a criminal charge ask is: How long does a criminal case take? The timeline of your criminal case in Minnesota will depend on the nature and severity of the alleged crime, the speed of the criminal justice system, the duration of the trial, and whether an appeal will be necessary. Delays at any stage of the criminal justice process may impact how long your criminal case will last. Generally, however, misdemeanor cases may resolve within weeks or months, while felony cases may linger in courts for up to a year.
People accused, arrested, or charged with a crime often ask, “How much does a criminal defense lawyer cost in Minneapolis, MN?” It is difficult to accurately determine how much a criminal defense lawyer will cost. The reason is that numerous factors impact the cost of legal representation in criminal matters. These factors include the type and severity of criminal charges, the lawyer’s experience and reputation, required time and effort, and geographical location.
Social media can have legal implications, particularly when it comes to criminal cases. Since its advent, social media has become a powerful tool for communication and self-expression. As of 2023, an estimated 4.9 billion people worldwide use social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to share thoughts, experiences, and moments from their lives. However, in this digital age, social media activity can be used as evidence in criminal cases in Minneapolis and elsewhere.