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

Knowing how to choose a criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis, MN, can help you hire a lawyer who will prepare an effective defense strategy and fight for the best result from your case. One of the crucial tips when selecting a criminal defense lawyer is to vet those with relevant experience in cases like yours. You can only do this when you thoroughly understand the charges you are facing.
People anticipating an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota, might ask, “What is the role of a defense attorney during an arrest?” A skilled criminal defense attorney can explain your options, ensure the police follow the rules, and protect your rights. The attorney will build a solid defense, talk to the prosecutor, and fight for your best interests.
Knowing when to hire a criminal lawyer for your case in Minnesota can help protect your constitutional rights and turn the odds in your favor. You should retain a criminal lawyer immediately after learning you are under investigation, get arrested, or are charged with a crime. Seasoned criminal lawyers understand the criminal justice system, can build a winning defense strategy, and aggressively push for a positive outcome of your case.