Manufacturing evidence or knowingly using it through perjured testimony in court in order to obtain a wrongful conviction against someone violates the Due Process clause of the Constitution, and thus constitutes malicious prosecution. While that is only one example, there are several instances where an officer or a private individual can deny someone’s right to a fair trial. Some legal commentators will lead you to believe that a malicious prosecution claim is not good law in California due to everyone’s right to access of the court system.
But the law is clear where false criminal charges were instituted against an individual where it was unwarranted to do so—a serious deprivation of liberty results.
Misleading Authorities in Conducting Criminal Action
Courts consider many variables in deciding if a defendant has actually committed a malicious prosecution action against someone. Primarily, they look to see if a criminal prosecution was stated against someone where the liable party was influential and participated in the decision to prosecute. Therefore, an officer, security guard, coworker, or malice witness would be the most likely candidate to take part in targeting a victim in an unlawful seizure or investigation.
Next, courts look to see if there was a lack of probable cause for the criminal prosecution. While all criminal investigations are premised on the suspicion of penal wrongdoing, a malicious prosecution claim will normally be lacking in what is often considered strong indicia of criminal activity.
Finally, it must be shown that where the consequences of the legal proceeding caused the victim to suffer a deprivation of liberty under the Fourth Amendment (unlawful seizure), the plaintiff may recover damages from the liable party.
Providing False Information to Prosecution
Both officers and private citizens will be liable for malicious prosecution where it can be shown that person was sufficiently involved in initiating the prosecution against the individual that was ultimately prosecuted. Awabdy v. City of Adelanto, 368 F.3d 1062 (9th Cir. 2004), Limone v. U.S., 579 F.3d 79 (1st Cir. 2001), Reed v. City of Chicago, 77 F.3d 1049 (7th Cir. 1996), Eubanks v. Gerwen, 40 F.3d 1157 (11th Cir. 1994).
Similarly, withholding evidence that may tend to exculpate the defendant from criminal liability continues the malicious prosecution claim due to the continued violation of Due Process.
Can Prosecutors be Charged with Malicious Prosecution?
For many reasons, a district attorney or city attorney is immune from the claim of malicious prosecution. Prosecutors are faced with many conflicting sources of evidence and must make complicated judgment calls as to what facts support or bring doubt to their cases. In most instances, they have only the representations of witnesses, police, or the individuals that initiated the claim against the criminal defendant to base their charges on.