Malicious Prosecution

Law enforcement officers can misuse their authority – for example, to make arrests without probable cause. Prosecutorial misconduct can lead to intentionally pursuing charges that the district attorney might know are not supported by the evidence. Being arrested and prosecuted unlawfully can result in a claim of malicious prosecution. 

A wrongful arrest and prosecution can cause severe damage to your reputation. Additionally, you might be jailed illegally because of prosecutorial or police misconduct. You could incur substantial lost wages and incur other expenses because of the malicious prosecution. 

What Is Malicious Prosecution? 

What Is Malicious Prosecution?

Malicious prosecution is pursuing a criminal case or civil lawsuit without probable cause or legal grounds. 42 United States Code §1983 gives individuals a legal cause of action to file lawsuits for malicious prosecution and other civil rights violations. 

Claims for malicious prosecution can be brought against police officers, prosecutors, and other parties involved in the prosecution. Lawsuits for malicious prosecution are filed in civil court. The lawsuit seeks a monetary award for the damages and harm caused by the wrongful prosecution.

What Do I Need To Prove To Win a Malicious Prosecution Case?

You must prove several factors to win a malicious prosecution claim. Those factors are:

  • The defendant started or continued a criminal case against you.
  • There was no probable cause or legal justification for the criminal case.
  • You won the criminal case, or the criminal case was dismissed.
  • The defendant began or continued the criminal case because of malice.
  • You sustained harm and damages because of the criminal prosecution.

Malice is a complex issue. Recent court cases in Kentucky have updated the requirements regarding the motivation for the defendant’s actions in a malicious prosecution case. Therefore, always talk with an experienced criminal attorney about your case to ensure you receive legal advice based on the most recent judicial decisions. 

Can I File a Malicious Prosecution Case if the Prosecutor Dismissed the Criminal Charges?

It depends on the facts and circumstances of your case. A prosecutor might begin a criminal case with the honest belief that there is probable cause for charging a person with a crime. 

However, as the case proceeds, the prosecutor realizes there are no legal grounds for the criminal offense. If so, the prosecutor should promptly dismiss the case. 

However, what happens if the prosecutor does not promptly dismiss the charges? Suppose instead that the prosecutor continues the case and tries to get the accused to enter a plea agreement.

In that case, the prosecutor could be liable in a malicious prosecution case. The prosecutor maliciously continued to pursue the criminal charges to obtain a plea bargain. The prosecutor only dismissed the case after it became evident the case would go to trial, and the court might determine there was no probable cause for the criminal offenses. 

Why Does Malicious Prosecution Occur in Louisville, KY?

Pursuing criminal charges without probable cause may occur for many reasons. Examples of malicious prosecution include:

  • Punish a person for a perceived wrong by harassing them with criminal proceedings
  • Charging a person with a misdemeanor or a felony to cover up police misconduct, such as the use of excessive force, illegal search, or false imprisonment
  • Bringing unfounded criminal charges to ruin a person’s reputation 
  • Charging a person with a crime to protect the person who actually committed the crime
  • Arresting someone because of a grudge
  • Pursuing criminal charges based on discrimination, including race, gender, age, religion, or color
  • Filing criminal charges against a political opponent or because of a person’s politics

Law enforcement officers and prosecutors have qualified immunity from lawsuits for malicious prosecution. Therefore, you must show that they acted outside the scope of their employment by engaging in unreasonable and willful conduct that does not serve the interest of justice. 

Is There a Deadline for Filing Malicious Prosecution Claims in Kentucky?

The Kentucky statute of limitations for filing malicious prosecution claims is one year after the cause of the action (KRS §413.140). A statute of limitations is the filing deadline for a claim. Failing to file your lawsuit before the deadline results in losing your legal right to pursue a claim through the court. 

However, there are exceptions to statutes of limitations. Also, determining when the statute begins can be difficult. Therefore, it is always best to consult a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after an arrest to discuss potential defenses and claims of malicious prosecution.

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Louisville Criminal Defense Lawyers

Being arrested for a crime does not mean you are guilty of a crime. You can and should fight criminal charges with the help of an attorney. Contact our law office Suhre & Associates, LLC at (502) 371-7000 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with an experienced Louisville criminal defense attorney.