Malicious prosecution is one of the more complex areas of the legal system, but it can impact anyone. In the simplest terms, it means one party initiating legal action against another without probable cause. Typically, rather than seeking to prove a breach of the law, malicious prosecution is generally designed to harass, harm, or otherwise inconvenience someone.
There are many reasons why someone might launch malicious prosecution claims, and this is an area in which the focus is often heavily on the rights of the person being prosecuted. Our justice system is designed to ensure these rights are upheld. While being the subject of baseless litigation can be an inconvenience at best and intimidating at worst, the Bell Law team is standing by to help you tackle any such claims.
Speak to a Bell Law Attorney About Malicious Prosecution Claims
Malicious prosecution cases have to be taken seriously. While some are used for little more than harassment, they can quickly spiral. Defending a compelling case, even one without evidence, can soon become resource-intensive. In some historical instances of malicious criminal prosecution, people have received fines or even jail terms.
If you’re the subject of a malicious prosecution claim, you do not need your case to reach that stage. It all comes down to acting and acting quickly. The sooner a Bell Law attorney can get involved with the case, the quicker we can work to dismiss frivolous lawsuits and any kind of false accusation.
Every case has different elements, and every malicious prosecution lawsuit is typically underpinned by malicious intent, as the name suggests, and a lack of probable cause. However, the specifics vary, which is why your initial consultation with Bell Law is free and without obligation.
Find out how to put malicious prosecution lawsuits behind you – call our team now at 816-281-0649.
Why Malicious Prosecution Occurs
People subject to a malicious prosecution claim may never have heard the term before. The notification of legal action may be perceived as a mistake, or frivolous action, especially when they know that they have no involvement in what they’re being accused of.
Both could be true, but the motivations of the individual or organization maliciously prosecuting the other party often determine whether their litigation is indeed intended to cause harm without any legal basis.
There are numerous reasons why malicious prosecutions happen.
Vendettas and Personal Relationships
Keeping in mind just how difficult and painful a malicious prosecution case can be for the defendant, some cases stem from personal relationships. This could be an employer looking to apply pressure on a current or former employee if they feel slighted in some way. If the claims support such cases, it might lead to criminal charges and a full criminal legal proceeding.
Financial or Business Benefits
A key element of the malicious prosecution definition is that it ties the target up, meaning they have less time, money, and other resources available for what they would prefer to do. In some cases, malicious prosecution and criminal proceedings may be designed solely to affect the target’s reputation. Lawsuits are bad for public perception, and a competitor may decide that they can do enough damage with the accusation, even though they are fully aware that there are no reasonable grounds for legal proceedings.
For individuals, financial gain or even preserving a reputation may be the source of malicious prosecution. A company may file a malicious lawsuit to claim money they are not owed according to an agreement or seek legal proof that they were in the right in the face of complaints or other actions.
Taking Advantage of Individuals
Malicious prosecution, whether it involves criminal charges or remains a civil lawsuit, can be particularly impactful for individuals. The resource issue is magnified compared to cases involving two businesses, which are more likely to have the money, time, and legal expertise to defend themselves.
Private citizens, faced with the financial might of a company, may be tempted to settle at the first sign of proceedings. Indeed, this may have been the accuser’s intention all along. It is far better to consult a legal professional before filing any sort of response. Doing so will limit emotional distress associated with false charges and will help determine whether civil or criminal charges levied by an accuser have any basis at all.
You can help establish where you stand without ever setting foot in court with the help of Bell Law LLC. Remember, the initial consultation is completely free and without obligation. We can help you assess where you are and help you formulate an action plan on what to do next. Call us today at 816-281-0649.
“Not My Debt” and Malicious Prosecution
Malicious prosecution refers to a situation where a person is wrongfully prosecuted or brought to court with malicious intent, typically involving false allegations or the misuse of legal procedures. In the context of “not my debt” cases, malicious prosecution can occur when an individual is wrongly pursued for a debt that they claim is not theirs.
“Not my debt” cases typically arise when someone is contacted by a debt collection agency or served with a lawsuit for a debt they believe they do not owe. The person may assert that the debt is a case of mistaken identity, identity theft, or a result of errors or fraudulent activities by the creditor or debt collector. Despite their protests, they may still be pursued legally, leading to potential malicious prosecution.
If you believe that you are a victim of malicious prosecution in a “not my debt” case, be sure to consult with an attorney experienced in consumer protection or civil litigation. The attorney can assess the situation, gather evidence, and help determine the best course of action, which may include filing a counterclaim or pursuing legal remedies against the malicious prosecuting party.
The Importance of Probable Cause
Malicious prosecution is inherently closely related to the concept of probable cause. It will be a term familiar to many, even if their legal knowledge is unconventional, not least because it is a key component of the US court system.
From civil claims to a police arrest, probable cause underpins much of the justice system. Without it, certain actions are impossible.
When the person that was initially the defendant becomes the plaintiff in a malicious prosecution lawsuit, probable cause once again plays a significant role. Specifically, you and your attorney will seek to assert and prove that the defendant commenced or continued legal action without probable cause. It might constitute an abuse of process or initiating a civil legal proceeding with an improper purpose.
Your attorney may seek to prove the absence of probable cause in a number of ways, including:
- A failure to investigate and establish probable cause before launching the initial lawsuit
- An intentional reliance on demonstrably false information
- Opting to ignore irrefutable evidence of the other party’s innocence
Understanding Probable Cause in Malicious Prosecution Lawsuits
Crucially, it is vital to understand that probable cause does not mean suspicion or a chance of wrongdoing. Just as a police officer would face a false arrest claim if they arrested or initiated a criminal proceeding against someone based on a hunch, the same can be said of a plaintiff that launches a criminal lawsuit based on guesswork.
There must be a genuine reason for the belief of someone’s guilt or culpability before it qualifies as probable cause. Anything less and it can lead to people being wrongfully accused in a way that simply cannot be justified.
Malicious Prosecution Compared to Legitimate Prosecution
Another crucial element of malicious prosecution is understanding its difference from legitimate legal action. The first thought that goes through most people’s minds when learning of a lawsuit against them is either denial or a desire to fight it. However, just because they believe they are not guilty does not necessarily make a case malicious.
The onus is not on the person that brings litigation on another to prove their claim – that takes place in the courts. The nature of probable cause means that someone must be justified in making a claim. If they hold this belief and have reasonable grounds to believe they are correct, the lawsuit could be legitimate, even if it is ultimately unsuccessful.
When proving a malicious prosecution, efforts to find in the plaintiff’s favor hinge on the following elements:
- The intent of the party that carried out the malicious prosecution when they launched litigation
- Whether or not there was probable cause to launch litigation
- The outcome of the case, if it made it through the courts
Criminal cases are typically more severe than civil cases, but no matter if there are tangible outcomes and actual damages, such as financial penalties or incarceration, emotional distress, or reputational damage, a malicious prosecution lawsuit can help individuals and businesses alike to receive justice.
Speak to a Bell Law LLC Attorney About Malicious Prosecution Now
If you’re concerned that you may be the defendant in a malicious prosecution, have already been found guilty, or otherwise lost a case that you believe was based on malice and without reasonable cause or anything in between, the Bell Law LLC team is standing by to help.
We specialize in helping people navigate the justice system, ensuring that they benefit from world-class legal expertise and support regardless of the size and financial power of the other party.
Malicious prosecution cases can vary wildly in scope, which makes it all the more important to speak to someone that can help at the earliest possible opportunity. Our initial discussion comes at no cost and with no obligation to you. However, by the end of that exploratory consultation, you will have a far better idea of where you stand and greater peace of mind.
Contact our offices now at 816-281-0649 to discover exactly how Bell Law can help.