We have all heard the stereotype about all people who are charged with a crime claiming to be innocent. But the truth is, plenty of them are. Nonetheless, they are prosecuted, even though, in some cases, the motivation behind the charges is the pursuit of something other than justice; they are interested in getting even or getting out of trouble themselves. Prosecution under these circumstances is legally called malicious prosecution. It means that either the plaintiff or someone on the prosecution team is literally out to get you. Sound like a conspiracy theory? Maybe so, but it happens more often than you might think.
Malicious Prosecution Comes in Many Forms
Malicious prosecution is pretty much what it sounds like — the spiteful arrest or prosecution of a person who is innocent or the prosecution of someone for which any reasonable person would acknowledge there were no legal grounds.
These cases frequently involve a plaintiff who is jealous, angry, or afraid, or who is aggressively seeking revenge. Some examples might include:
- An amorous relationship is toppled by an affair, and the scorned partner accuses the cheater of battery to exact revenge.
- A law enforcement officer is put off by a disrespectful youth, then trumps up charges to teach them a lesson.
- A nasty custody battle is heated up when one person falsely accuses their former spouse of child abuse in order to strengthen their bid for custody.
- When an amicable business split is impossible, and one partner accuses the other of fraud in an attempt to destroy their reputation and the company.
- An unplanned pregnancy leads to a rape accusation as a way to protect a young woman’s reputation.
- A newspaper sheds a negative light on a subject of journalistic investigation and is then sued for libel as a way to disparage the organization.
- A person sells their spouse’s expensive jewelry, then accuses someone else of stealing it to avoid blame.
Defending Malicious Charges
Defending these kinds of charges is much like defending any other case. That means developing a strategy of:
- Providing a strong alibi;
- Finding evidence of lies or embellishments;
- Presenting the defendant’s explanation of events in a credible fashion;
- Exposing motives for bringing charges;
- Checking police reports and procedures for errors;
- Looking at the plaintiff’s previous behavior that demonstrates malicious prosecution;
- Using physical evidence and additional provable facts to develop a compelling narrative;
- Seeking out third-party experts to testify;
- Demonstrating that the prosecution has not proven all elements of the crime.