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What is malicious prosecution?

Malicious prosecution is a legal term for the wrongful initiation or continuation of criminal proceedings against an innocent person. It’s essentially a civil lawsuit filed against someone who used the legal system to harm you through baseless criminal accusations. Here’s a breakdown in detail:

Key elements:

  • Initiation or continuation of criminal proceedings: This element requires the defendant (the person you’re suing) to have been actively involved in bringing or pursuing criminal charges against you. This could involve filing a complaint with the police, providing false evidence, or pressuring others to file charges.
  • Lack of probable cause: Probable cause refers to a reasonable belief that someone has committed a crime. To prove malicious prosecution, you must show that the defendant had no legitimate reason to believe you were guilty when they initiated the proceedings.
  • Malice: This element goes beyond simply acting wrongly and requires proof that the defendant had a wrongful purpose in initiating the proceedings. This could include personal vendetta, desire to harm you financially, or simply a general disregard for your rights.
  • Favorable termination: For a valid claim, the criminal proceedings against you must have ended in your favor. This could be through acquittal, dismissal of charges, or a successful appeal.


If you succeed in a malicious prosecution lawsuit, you may be entitled to several types of damages:

  • Compensatory damages: These cover the harm you suffered as a result of the criminal proceedings, such as lost wages, legal fees, damage to your reputation, and emotional distress.
  • Punitive damages: In some cases, the court may award additional damages to punish the defendant for their malicious behavior.


  • A neighbor falsely accuses you of theft based on fabricated evidence. You are arrested and spend a week in jail before the charges are dismissed. You can sue your neighbor for malicious prosecution.
  • Your ex-partner files a restraining order against you with false claims of abuse. The order disrupts your life and career before it is ultimately lifted. You can sue your ex-partner for malicious prosecution.

Important notes:

  • Malicious prosecution is a complex legal issue, and proving all the elements can be challenging. It’s crucial to consult with an attorney experienced in this area if you believe you have been a victim.
  • There are differences in how malicious prosecution claims are handled in different jurisdictions. Be sure to understand the specific legal framework in your location.
  • Malicious prosecution is distinct from false imprisonment, which involves the unlawful physical confinement of a person. While both involve wrongful restriction of freedom, the nature of the restriction and the elements of the claim differ.

I hope this explanation provides a detailed understanding of malicious prosecution. Remember, this information is for general knowledge only and cannot be considered legal advice. If you have any specific questions or concerns, please consult with a qualified attorney.

Adcocate J.S. Rohilla (Civil & Criminal Lawyer in Indore)

Contact: 88271 22304

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