Define: Malicious Prosecution

Malicious Prosecution
Malicious Prosecution
Quick Summary of Malicious Prosecution

Malicious prosecution is a legal claim that arises when a person initiates or continues a legal proceeding against another person without probable cause and with malicious intent. To succeed in a malicious prosecution claim, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the original legal action was initiated or continued without reasonable grounds or probable cause, and that it was done with malice or ill intent. Malicious prosecution claims typically involve civil lawsuits or criminal prosecutions that are dismissed in favour of the defendant, who then brings a separate action for malicious prosecution seeking compensation for damages such as legal fees, emotional distress, and loss of reputation. This legal doctrine aims to protect individuals from unjustified legal actions and deter the abuse of legal processes for malicious purposes.

What is the dictionary definition of Malicious Prosecution?
Dictionary Definition of Malicious Prosecution
n. filing a lawsuit with the intention of creating problems for the defendant such as costs, attorneys' fees, anguish, or distraction when there is no substantial basis for the suit. If the defendant in the lawsuit wins and has evidence that the suit was filed out of spite and without any legal or factual foundation, he/she may, in turn, sue for damages against the person who filed the original action. If malice is clearly proved against the party who brought the original suit, punitive damages may be awarded along with special and general damages. In recent cases, courts have ruled that an attorney who knowingly assists a client in filing a worthless lawsuit out of malice or spite may be liable for damages along with the client. The suit by the victim to recover damages for a malicious prosecution cannot be filed until the original lawsuit is decided in favor of the victim.
Full Definition Of Malicious Prosecution

Malicious prosecution occurs when one party files an untrue or baseless legal complaint against another without probable cause. Common types of malicious prosecution include a malicious tort, improper civil suit or improper criminal allegation.

To prove malicious prosecution in a lawsuit the victim generally has to prove the police officer or government agent initiated the criminal prosecution, the proceedings were initiated without probable cause, the proceedings were brought with malice and ended in the favour of the victim.

Winning a malicious prosecution lawsuit can be tough because most officers and government officials have broad protection through qualified immunity statutes. Exceptions may exist if you can prove willful and unreasonable conduct on the part of the officer or agent. Given the complexity of the laws surrounding this issue if you think you have a case, you will need to talk to a civil rights lawyer.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 29th March 2024.

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