If you've been wrongfully prosecuted, you might be able to file a malicious prosecution lawsuit for damages against the person who initiated the charges or filed the suit against you. Learn about what malicious prosecution is and what is required.
Four elements are required to establish a claim for malicious prosecution:
- Initiating or continuing of a criminal legal proceeding: The person whom you are suing (the defendant) must have brought criminal charges against you against you. For example, someone swore out a warrant for your arrest.
- Lack of grounds: The defendant did not have reasonable grounds or probable cause for accusing you of a crime against you. For example, the defendant knew you weren't the person who assaulted him or her, or the defendant knew you didn't owe him or her money but continues the case.
- Bad motive: The defendant acted with malice in bringing charges against you.
- Favorable termination: You must receive an outcome or judgment in your favor. A jury returned a not guilty verdict in a criminal case, the charges against you were dropped due to the lack of evidence, or the judge dismissed the case on its merits.
If you think you have a case, contact a civil rights attorney to evaluate your case.
In a malicious prosecution lawsuit, you can recover damages you suffered because of the criminal charges. You can get the money you lost as a result of spending time in jail. You can receive compensation for lost wages and the cost of defending the charges, and you may recover for damage to your reputation or for the emotional stress you suffered.
Prosecutors and law enforcement officers enjoy qualified immunity from suits for malicious prosecution. If you're filing a malicious prosecution suit against a prosecutor or law enforcement officer, you must show he or she acted outside the scope of his or her employment and engaged in willful and unreasonable conduct.
A suit for malicious prosecution is not the same as a suit for false arrest or a suit for false imprisonment. The basis for a false arrest suit is an arrest without the proper authority to make the arrest. The basis for a false imprisonment suit is confining someone against his or her will. To prove a malicious prosecution suit, you must show someone used the court system by initiating criminal charges.
If someone files criminal charges against you without any reasonable grounds and you receive a favorable outcome, you have two years in Georgia to file a malicious prosecution lawsuit.