The impact can be devastating when an innocent citizen is falsely accused of a crime. If you are the victim of malicious prosecution in Philadelphia, you may feel like the world is crashing down. You may feel uncertain about your future, especially if you are facing potential jail time for a crime you did not commit. With the help of the malicious prosecution attorneys at Abramson & Denenberg, P.C, you can fight these false allegations. Additionally, you may be entitled to damages as the victim of malicious prosecution.
What is Malicious Prosecution?
Regarding criminal charges, malicious prosecution claims arise when a Pennsylvania or federal prosecutor knowingly and maliciously intends to file charges against a defendant. Malicious prosecution happens when a prosecutor initiates litigation against a party, knowing there is not enough evidence to prove the charges against the defendant, the evidence or testimony comes from unreliable sources, or the prosecutor hides evidence that could help the defendant.
Proving that malicious prosecution has occurred is not always easy. The victim will need to provide evidence satisfying all of the legal elements of his or her claim. Specifically, victims of malicious prosecution need to prove all of the following elements to obtain damages for their injuries:
- The state initiated a criminal proceeding against the defendant
- The proceeding was resolved in the defendant’s favor
- The prosecution did not have the required probable cause to bring the charges against the defendant
- The prosecution brought the criminal charges against the defendant with malice
- The defendant suffered injuries or damages because of the criminal prosecution
Malicious Prosecutions are Unconstitutional
United States citizens are entitled to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. When government officials and other government actors violate a citizen’s due process rights, the citizen can hold them legally liable for any damages they suffer. When prosecutors engage in malicious prosecution, the victim can pursue damages through a civil rights lawsuit against the government. Civil rights lawsuits allege the violation of a constitutional right is authorized under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. They are commonly referred to as “1983 claims” by attorneys and judges.
Common Examples of Malicious Prosecution
Police officers and prosecutors can engage in malicious prosecution for various reasons. Perhaps they have had previous encounters with the defendant and would like to punish the defendant for pursuing a complaint against them. A third-party citizen initiates other cases. For example, suppose a supervisor who doesn’t like an employee falsely accuses the employee of stealing from the workplace.
In that case, the false accusation can cause you to lose your job and suffer a damaged reputation. In other cases, a police officer may lie about what happened during an altercation. The body camera footage may tell a different story. Instead of dropping the charges, prosecutors could continue to pursue criminal charges against you. Malicious prosecution can also be motivated by racism, sexism, and other prejudices against Philadelphia residents.
Waiving the Right to a Malicious Prosecution Claim
It is crucial that you discuss your case with an experienced attorney before you enter into a plea agreement. You may unintentionally waive your rights to bring a malicious prosecution claim at a later time if you accept a plea agreement. In a plea agreement, the defendant pleads guilty or no contest to a lesser charge.
The judge overseeing the case should ensure that the defendant makes a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver. If you have been charged with a crime in Philadelphia and you suspect that the prosecution is engaging in malicious prosecution, do not agree to a plea bargain until you discuss your case with an attorney. You may have a valid claim for damages through a civil rights lawsuit if you are found not guilty.
Damages Available to Victims of Malicious Prosecution in Philadelphia
Victims of malicious prosecution frequently have to endure a lengthy and destructive trial that is completely unnecessary. Criminal prosecutions are costly, and defendants may need to spend significant money on hiring a defense attorney. Going through a difficult trial in which they may have to testify to personal details they do not want to be made public can be physically and mentally draining.
Should the case become high profile, the victim may have to deal with members of the media following them around and hounding them for comments. The stigma around the prosecution could result in the victim being unable to obtain gainful employment and could negatively affect their relationships.
The primary goal of pursuing a claim for malicious compensation is to seek justice and pursue monetary compensation for wrongful prosecution. Malicious prosecution victims may be entitled to compensatory damages and additional punitive damages. Compensatory damages cover the physical injuries the victim suffered during the arrest. They also cover any lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering experienced by the victim.
Additionally, the plaintiff can pursue punitive damages against the government actor or government agency responsible for the arrest and criminal proceedings. Punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault government agency and deter other agencies from engaging in similar behavior. When there is evidence of recklessness, extreme malice, or ill-will, the victim can seek punitive damages. At Abramson & Denenberg, P.C., we have the professional network, resources, and experience necessary to carefully quantify your damages and pursue the most common station available in your case.
Schedule a Strategy Session with Our Philadelphia Malicious Prosecution Lawyers
When police officers and prosecutors in Philadelphia abuse their authority and engage in malicious prosecution, they should be held accountable. The experienced civil rights attorneys at Abramson & Denenberg, P.C have the experience and resources necessary to give you the best chance at a favorable outcome in fighting against malicious prosecution. We will protect you every step of the way and hold the responsible party or parties accountable.
Our attorneys have successfully represented clients in many malicious prosecution cases. Contact Abramson & Denenberg, P.C to schedule a free case evaluation and learn more about how we can provide you with compassionate and effective legal representation.