What Is Malicious Prosecution & How To Prove It

Published on 03/31/2024 by Monica Burneikis

Participating in legal proceedings is costly, especially if you are brought into court - repeatedly - by the same plaintiff for something that has already been resolved or is not worthy of legal proceedings. The term malicious prosecution describes lawsuits filed:

  • To intentionally harm, deplete, or wear a defendant down.
  • Without legal merit.
  • Harass the defendant (who ultimately becomes a victim of the plaintiff).

Malicious prosecution cases are handled in civil court. While it does require you to enter the legal arena once again, hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer is essential to recoup your expenses and additional damages.

When Are You The Victim Of Malicious Prosecution?

There are several themes found in malicious prosecution cases, some of the most common involve the following:

False criminal charges

Perhaps one of the worst forms of malicious prosecution occurs when someone knows you are not guilty of a crime, but brings criminal charges against you. This can have incalculable consequences, including jail time, the loss of your job or lost wages, and a tremendous hit on your moral reputation. It can also negatively impact relationships with family, children, friends, and colleagues.

Repeat civil charges for the same event/scenario

You can also sue someone for malicious prosecution if they continue bringing you to court or filing legal proceedings against you for something that is not a wrongdoing on your part or has already been settled in your favor in the past. 

The fact of the matter is that depending on your relationship with the plaintiff, their emotional/mental health, and their ego, you can wind up in a nightmare of repeat legal proceedings that will not end without a ruling of malicious prosecution in your favor.

As mentioned above, malicious prosecution cases are civil rather than criminal, and the sooner you act, the better. In many cases, a letter from a lawyer stating you plan to file a malicious prosecution case if the plaintiff persists is enough to get them to back down. If not, and if you have a legitimate claim, your legal fees and other damages will be returned to you after a verdict is handed down in your favor. 

The Burden Of Proof Is On You

The burden of proof is on you, as the plaintiff, to win your case and countersue for damages in this type of case. Remember, malicious prosecution cases are civil trials, so they are witnessed and judged by a jury. 

To win your case, you must prove:

Lack of probable cause

First, you will need to prove that there was no cause for the original case brought against you. Your attorney will supply documentation, evidence, and witness testimony (if applicable) demonstrating there was no just or probable cause for the original case.

Malicious intent

Second, you must prove to the court that the original plaintiff’s acts were malicious in intent. This is typically evidenced by a lack of probable cause as well as a good faith attempt on your behalf to settle the situation out of court. Often, criminal cases involving malicious intent involve people who were already involved in some type of relationship, and there is a history of conflict that helps to support your case.

You won the original frivolous lawsuit

When someone sues you - or presses charges - for a lawsuit you have already won, you will need to prove that prior ruling during your malicious prosecution case. Your lawyer will help you procure all of the previously filed court documents - including the ruling in your favor - to support your case.

You incurred damages as a result of the case

You will also have to provide evidence of the damages you experienced as a result of the false claims. This includes financial as well as emotional/psychological damages

Some of the ways the court awards financial/economic damages include:

  • Legal expenses
  • Cost of applicable bail bonds
  • Legal/court-associated fees
  • Medical or psychological treatment costs
  • Lost wages due to time spent while incarcerated, with your legal team, or in the courts
  • Other related financial losses

Non-economic damages, such as:

  • Emotional pain and suffering
  • Humiliation
  • Loss of reputation
  • Loss of work clients or your job as the result of employer/client suspicions

As you can imagine, non-economic damages are more challenging to prove, so an experienced attorney’s advice is invaluable.

No reasonable person would have filed the suit(s) against you

Finally, the court must also determine that in the same situation, no reasonable person would have filed the original  - and successive - claims or charges against you. 

All of the above must be proven for the jury to rule in your favor. This is why an experienced lawyer is essential. If you do not have professional representation and accurate evidence in your favor, you risk losing the malicious prosecution case, which will put you at risk for further legal harassment and charges.

Examples Of Scenarios Leading To Malicious Prosecution 

Most of the time, malicious prosecution cases begin due to a relationship gone sour. For example:

  • An ex-spouse or romantic partner seeking revenge
  • Parents trying to get the leading edge in a child custody case
  • Neighbors who are at odds

Unfortunately, in the State of California, plaintiffs often lose these cases. The court does not want the risk of a malicious prosecution charge to discourage legitimate cases from being filed in courts. That said if you have a valid case and ample proof in your favor, filing a malicious prosecution case may be the only way to end the harassment, be adequately compensated for your trauma, and move forward with your life.

Burneikis Law Is Here To Support Your Malicious Prosecution Case

If you have been maliciously prosecuted, Burneikis Law, P.C. is here to support you. We provide free, no-obligation consultations and never take a case if we feel we cannot win it for you. Our legal team will be straightforward with you and will let you know whether you have a strong chance of winning your case. Contact us to schedule your consultation.

Monica Burneikis - Oakland Personal Injury Attorney
Monica Burneikis has been an accident and personal injury lawyer for over 15 years. She knows what it takes to fight with insurance companies in order to obtain maximum compensation for injury victims and their families.
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