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Malicious prosecution: When the law is used unlawfully

Lawyers are trained to recognize when a particular case has legal merit. Nevertheless, an individual might choose to pursue a legal action -- even though a basis did not exist -- simply out of a malicious intention to harm the person being targeted in the suit. These types of lawsuits are called malicious prosecution.

Malicious prosecution might happen when a politician wants to defame an opponent, or when a business owner seeks to put a competitor out of business. Malicious prosecution might also happen between two disgruntled family members or for any number of other reasons. It can also occur due to discrimination against the victim in a criminal lawsuit lodged to target someone due to his or her race, religion, sexual preference, creed, national origin and other reasons.

For those who are victimized by malicious prosecution, when they didn't do anything wrong, the law offers an ability to pursue restitution and justice in court. The category of injury referenced in a malicious prosecution claim is referred to as a "dignitary" tort because it involves injury to the victim's "human dignity" resulting in emotional stress and the abuse of process.

Let's take a look at the elements involved in a malicious prosecution case:

-- A lawsuit, whether criminal or civil, was filed against the plaintiff;

-- The defendant filed the malicious proceeding;

-- The action was dismissed or terminated in the plaintiff's favor;

-- No probable cause existed to support the lawsuit;

-- The action was filed out of malice; and

-- The plaintiff suffered damage or injury as a result.

If you've been the victim of malicious prosecution in a criminal lawsuit, you may be able to fight back to receive financial compensation for the harm that was done to you. A civil rights attorney can help you with evaluating your case and whether or not you have been a victim.

Source: FindLaw, "Malicious Prosecution," accessed June 13, 2017

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