Being charged with a crime is typically a harrowing experience, and even when people are found not guilty, they often suffer economic hardship and permanent harm to their reputations. Generally, though, regardless of the ultimate outcome of criminal case, the State will not prosecute people for crimes without a valid reason. Unfortunately, however, some individuals abuse the legal process and accuse others of committing crimes without any factual basis for inappropriate reasons. False accusations can harm people’s reputations and require them to expend substantial fees to obtain a legal defense, but many victims of fictitious claims can seek remuneration for their losses via civil lawsuits. If you were the target of malicious prosecution, the assertive Atlanta litigation lawyers of Poole Huffman can gather the evidence needed to set forth compelling arguments in your favor, and we will work tirelessly to help you seek a just outcome. We frequently help parties pursue malicious prosecution claims in Atlanta and in Decatur and Tucker.Proving Liability for Malicious Prosecution
There are numerous reasons a person may falsely accuse another individual of committing a crime, but in many instances, the motivation is economic. For example, a person may seek to enact revenge on a business partner, contractor, landlord, or tenant. Fortunately, people who are falsely accused of crimes often have grounds to pursue malicious prosecution claims under both Georgia and federal law.
There are six elements of a malicious prosecution claim that a plaintiff must prove to recover damages. First, the plaintiff must show that the defendant prosecuted the plaintiff for a crime pursuant to a valid accusation, summons, or warrant but that the criminal case was instituted without probable cause. While showing that charges were brought against the plaintiff is straightforward, demonstrating that they were filed without a sound basis can be difficult. Essentially, the court must determine whether the defendant lacked a reasonable belief that the plaintiff was guilty, based on factors such as the information available, the thoroughness of the investigation into the underlying facts, and the reliability of the sources providing the information. The plaintiff must then prove that the charges arose out of malice. Generally, malice can be inferred from a lack of probable cause to arrest or prosecute the plaintiff.
Next, the plaintiff has to show a termination in his or her favor in the criminal matter. In other words, the charges were either dropped or dismissed, or a judge or jury found the plaintiff not guilty. A favorable termination requires a determination that the defendant did not commit the alleged offense based on the merits of the case. As such, a dismissal based on procedural grounds is unlikely to constitute a favorable termination. Finally, the plaintiff must show that he or she suffered harm due to the criminal matter. Harm may include economic losses, such as loss of income and attorneys’ fees, and intangible harm, such as damage to a reputation, mental distress, and psychological trauma caused by being falsely accused of a crime.Damages Awarded in Malicious Prosecution Cases
A plaintiff that successfully establishes a defendant’s liability for malicious prosecution may recover compensation for the losses sustained due to the underlying case. For example, damages may include the cost of a legal defense, harm to the plaintiff’s reputation, and lost business opportunities. Damages may also include lost wages and compensation for time spent in jail. In cases in which the defendant’s behavior was especially egregious, punitive damages may be awarded to the plaintiff as well.Speak to an Attorney in Atlanta
Using the courts to institute a criminal action against someone without a reasonable basis is not only inappropriate, but it is also grounds for a malicious prosecution lawsuit. If you suffered harm because of false accusations that you committed a crime, you should speak to a lawyer regarding your rights. The seasoned attorneys of Poole Huffman can assess the circumstances surrounding your underlying case and advise you of your potential claims. We regularly represent parties in malicious prosecution claims in Atlanta and in Decatur, and in Tucker, where we have an office. We also represent people in civil matters in cities throughout Fulton, Cobb, DeKalb, and Gwinnett Counties. You can reach us at 404-373-4008 or through our online form to set up a confidential consultation.