Malicious prosecution in criminal matters in New York

Malicious prosecution claims may be available for those who believe they are falsely charged with a crime.

In New York, a successful malicious prosecution claim for a criminal matter must establish the following elements:

  • The defendant commenced a criminal proceeding against the plaintiff,
  • The criminal proceeding was terminated in favor of the plaintiff,
  • The claim lacked probable cause, and
  • The claim was brought out of actual malice

Without every element, the claim will fail.

Malicious prosecution in action: The controversial case of Grucci v. Grucci

In 2012, the Supreme Court of the State of New York's Appellate Division heard a case involving allegations of malicious prosecution. The case, Grucci v. Grucci, involved a couple going through a divorce. During the divorce, the wife alleged that the husband made harassing phone calls and threatened to "put a hit" out on her life. She took these claims to the police, and the husband was charged with various crimes. He was acquitted of the charges due to the wife's inconsistent testimony concerning the alleged threats. After acquittal, the husbanded commenced an action against the wife for malicious prosecution.

Ultimately, the court ruled that the first element required to establish a malicious prosecution claim was not met. There is much debate on how this element can be fulfilled. The case in question states that the assistant district attorney (ADA) was responsible for commencing the case, not the wife. However, there is also language within the case noting that standing policy removed any discretion on moving forward with charges when it is determined that an incident of domestic violence had occurred. The court found that in this situation, "it was never up to the complainant or victim whether or not to go forward" with the criminal proceeding because "the ultimate decision on whether to prosecute a case or not falls with the District Attorney['s] office." The opinion then goes on to note that the ADA remembers the wife as "a nice believable lady that presented well, had kids, had marital problems, and of the thousands of cases that [he] prosecuted, that's all [he could] remember." This memory of the wife is noted as supporting evidence that the wife did not initiate the contempt proceeding. Perhaps if the wife had been more adamant and pushed for charges against her husband the court may have ruled differently on this element.

Malicious prosecution: The importance of legal counsel

Malicious prosecution is often used in response to false allegations of domestic abuse; however, it can also be used in instances of false arrest.

Remedies are available for those who believe they are the victims of spiteful and false allegations of criminal activity. If you are a victim, contact an experienced New York malicious prosecution lawyer to discuss your options and better ensure your legal rights and remedies are protected.

Keywords: criminal defense