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When you’re the target of a mean-spirited individual who wants to make your life more difficult, it might sometimes feel as though you have no control. However, there are legal techniques that may assist people by defending them against malicious prosecution allegations.

Let’s look at what constitutes malicious prosecution in California, starting with the definition. To begin, let’s clarify what malicious prosecution is in California.

Table of Contents (click to jump to a specific section)

What is Malicious Prosecution in California?
Example of Malicious Prosecution
What are the elements of this cause of action?
What is Prosecutorial Immunity?
What are the possible compensation options if I win my case?
How long do I have to sue?
Kirakosian Law and Malicious Prosecution in California

What is Malicious Prosecution in California?

Malicious prosecution is the legal or civil case that is filed with no basis and for an improper cause, such as harassment, tarnishing another person’s reputation, or intentionally placing the blame on someone other than the actual wrongdoer.

If the charges are dropped as a result of such a complaint, the defendant may sue for malicious prosecution and seek financial compensation. The purpose of this legislation is to protect against and correct judicial abuse.

Example of Malicious Prosecution

A county prosecutor runs for mayor and loses. He feels that a local businessman who is active in politics was responsible for his defeat.

After the businessman is arrested, the prosecutor becomes preoccupied with the notion that he cost him his election. When doubts arise about the businessman’s crossover between business and politics, the prosecutor seizes his chance to accuse and charge him with attempting to buy public officials.

The man’s attorneys were able to show that there was no evidence to support the charges and that the case was simply a vendetta. The prosecutor takes the lead role in the case, and after time, his defense team is able to prove that there was no basis for the accusations.

Charges are dropped after months of investigation and numerous trials before a criminal court judge, but only after several months of legal wrangling. The entrepreneur pays thousands of dollars in attorney fees and profits his firm money.

The prosecutor may be sued for malicious prosecution. The businessman can sue the prosecutor on the grounds that he abused his legal powers and authority as a district attorney.

The individual may claim compensation for the losses he incurred as a result of the criminal case, such as being kept in jail for several days, the cost of defending against the charges, lost business due to missed work, and damage to his reputation in the neighborhood.

To summarize, the California tort of malicious prosecution is a civil lawsuit intended to punish people who bring meritless claims that lead to injury.

However, in order to establish these causes of action, the plaintiff must show evidence of certain facts.

 

What are the elements of this cause of action?

There are four main elements for a malicious prosecution suit in California:

  1. Lack of Probable Cause: When it’s clear that a claim is being made for an improper reason or without cause, there’s no basis to support it. This is looked at on a case-by-case basis to see if the claim was filed against someone who should not be named in a lawsuit.
  2. Malice or Malicious Intent: The litigant who filed the meritless lawsuit did so with bad intentions, not simply by accident. Accidentally naming the wrong person in a lawsuit would not imply spite.
  3. Winning the Frivolous Lawsuit: In malicious prosecution, the plaintiff must show that he or she won the prior lawsuit at least as to any claims asserted in the new case (“favorable termination”).
  4. Legal Damages: Both economic and non-economic compensatory damages are considered, and they must be proved in court.

It is critical for an injured person to establish all of the elements of his or her case. A loss at trial may occur if any one of the components in this claim’s foundation is not proven. However, before bringing a claim for malicious prosecution, there is something you must consider.

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What is Prosecutorial Immunity?

One of the most difficult aspects of malicious prosecution allegations based on the filing of criminal charges is prosecutor immunity. Prosecutors and other law enforcement personnel are granted immunity under state and federal legislation from liability for malicious prosecution.

Immunity for prosecutors and law enforcement is intended to protect them from being accused of malicious prosecution so that they may execute their duties without having to worry about such allegations. The fear is that every person who claims innocence will file a lawsuit against the prosecutor for malicious prosecution.

However, this immunity does have limits. In most jurisdictions, if the plaintiff in a malicious prosecution claim can show that the prosecutor acted outside of his or her authority throughout the process of initiating or pursuing a criminal case, the immunity will not apply to those acts.

If a prosecutor paid a witness to testify to things or created fraudulent papers in the context of our previous example, for example, she would not have immunity because those actions are outside the scope of her job.

So, does that mean you’re out of luck if you want to sue a prosecutor? Not necessarily.

Whether or not your claim has all of the elements necessary to begin a malicious prosecution lawsuit and you can show that the prosecutor who handled your situation acted outside of his or her authority to bring charges against you, there is a chance that you will win.

What are the possible compensation options if I win my case?

When a defendant is successful in his or her malicious prosecution lawsuit, he or she may receive both economic and non-economic compensation.

Damages that can be compensated include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • attorney fees,
  • lost wages due to time spent in trial or incarceration,
  • costs of litigation,
  • cost of bail bond,
  • medical or psychological therapy costs,
  • court fees and expenses, and
  • other financial loss.

Non-economic damages, which the plaintiff may be compensated to include:

  • pain and suffering,
  • humiliation,
  • loss of reputation,
  • embarrassment, and
  • emotional distress.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, may be recovered by the victim. They are far greater than compensatory damages.

An individual who has been the victim of a maliciously filed civil or criminal lawsuit may recover compensation for his or her losses through the aid of a competent California lawyer.

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How long do I have to sue?

There is a one- to two year statute of limitations for bringing a malicious prosecution claim, depending on the circumstances. The one-year limit is generally imposed in cases where the defendant is an attorney.

Kirakosian Law and Malicious Prosecution in California

Malicious prosecution against police and other government officials is a sad reality that we have to cope with. Civil rights protections are one of the bedrock of our democracy.

Our practice is passionate about protecting the American people’s rights to equality regardless of their ethnicity, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Our firm represents people who have had their rights and even their dignity stripped from them by police officials, elected officials, large corporations, and others.

If you’re searching for answers regarding your civil rights or more information concerning malicious prosecution then it is like you or someone you know may have been a victim. The question is: do I or they have a case? Some key points to consider:

  • It’s common but its often underreported
  • A no-commitment call with an attorney will give you the answers you need in a few minutes
  • If you feel your civil rights have been trespassed against – then you should talk to a lawyer

If you or someone you know has suffered emotional distress or injury due to a civil rights violation, contact our attorney at Kirakosian Law APC for a free consultation.