Pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, United States citizens are entitled to due process. If a state actor violates this constitutional protection, the actor may be legally liable for any damages victims suffer. Government officials and other government actors may violate a citizen’s constitutional rights by engaging in malicious prosecution proceedings, and the victim of such a prosecution may file a civil claim.
Malicious prosecution occurs in cases when a prosecutor initiates litigation against another party knowing that he or she has insufficient evidence against the defendant, knows that the evidence or testimony comes from illegal or unreliable sources, or hides evidence that could help the defendant.
In some cases, the person against whom the litigation was brought may have to endure a disruptive and lengthy trial that was completely unnecessary in the first place. Criminal prosecutions can be very costly proceedings for both sides. Moreover, they can have a significant physical and mental impact on the individual who is being prosecuted.
If you or someone you love has been wrongfully arrested and prosecuted, you need the services of an experienced federal civil rights attorney on your side representing you at all times. The federal civil rights lawyers at The Zeiger Firm can assist you throughout your malicious prosecution case by filing a claim on your behalf and helping you to pursue the recovery you deserve for all you endured throughout the process.
If you believe you have been the victim of unlawful state action, call us today to learn more about how we can assist you with your malicious prosecution case. We handle federal cases that arise in the following counties that constitute the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in the federal court system: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, and Philadelphia.
Elements of Proof for a Federal Malicious Prosecution Claim
In the context of criminal law, malicious prosecution claims arise when a state or federal prosecutor knowingly and malicious intent files charges against a defendant. In many cases, this occurs after a police officer wrongfully arrests an individual and takes him or her into custody. In a case such as this, a person who was subject to wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution may be able to recover damages by filing a civil lawsuit against the government. Such lawsuits against government actors who violate citizen’s constitutional rights are authorized by 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and are often referred to as “1983 claims” by lawyers and judges.
Proving a malicious prosecution claim can be difficult, and the victim of malicious prosecution has the burden of satisfying all of the legal elements of his or her claim. Specifically, the individual asserts the malicious prosecution claim must demonstrate all of the following:
- The state initiated a criminal proceeding
- The proceeding was resolved in favor of the defendant
- There was not probable cause to bring the case
- The case was brought with malice
- The defendant suffered injuries or damages as a result of the criminal action
An experienced federal civil rights attorney can assist you with successfully satisfying all of the legal elements of proof in your malicious prosecution case, and can make a claim for monetary compensation on your behalf.
Waiving Your Right to a Malicious Prosecution Claim
Under certain circumstances, an individual may waive his or her right to later bring a claim for malicious prosecution. For example, if the individual enters into a plea agreement in which he or she pleads guilty or no contest to a criminal charge, he or she will likely waive the right to file a malicious prosecution claim in the future. Before making such a plea in open court, the presiding judge will make sure that the individual is making a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver, and that he or she is aware of and understands the legal rights that are being waived.
Potential Damages in Federal Malicious Prosecution Cases
The primary purposes of filing a claim for malicious prosecution are to seek justice and to pursue monetary compensation for the wrongful prosecution and subsequent experience. To recover monetary compensation for malicious prosecution, the individual filing the claim must first prove all of the legal elements listed above.
Victims of malicious prosecution may be eligible to recover both compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages. Compensatory damages are meant to compensate the claimant for any physical injuries that he or she suffered during the arrest, as well as for any lost wages, pain, and suffering that the claimant experienced. In addition, the claimant may pursue punitive damages against the government or the government actor who was responsible for the arrest and the subsequent criminal proceedings. Punitive damages are meant to punish the governmental entity and can be awarded when there is evidence of extreme malice, recklessness, or ill will. An experienced federal civil rights attorney will do everything possible to help you recover monetary compensation in your case.
Talk to a Federal Civil Rights Lawyer Today
Criminal proceedings and their aftermath can have devastating effects on individuals. The compassionate team of federal civil rights attorneys at The Zeiger Firm can file a claim or lawsuit for malicious prosecution on your behalf and help you pursue the monetary compensation to which you are entitled. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a federal civil rights attorney, call us at (215) 546-0340 or contact us online today to learn more.