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Does an acquittal prove your case was maliciously prosecuted?

The verdict from the jury comes back as “not guilty.” We would imagine many people who have just gone through a Georgia trial would experience great relief at being acquitted. However, it is also natural to feel anger and humiliation for having been put through the ordeal of a trial for a crime that was never proven. Some people in that position may even feel the prosecutor was out to get them. But is an acquittal enough to prove malicious prosecution?

According to the Legal Dictionary, malicious prosecution is the result of bringing a criminal or civil case against a person without probable cause. It can also occur if a prosecutor or a plaintiff in a civil case had a goal other than bringing a person to justice. Defendants who are victimized by malicious prosecution can turn around and sue the actors who brought the original case. In the case of a malicious civil suit, the original plaintiff is the defendant. In a criminal case, the prosecutor is the one that will be sued.

When it comes to criminal prosecutions, the fact that someone was acquitted of the crime does not mean that probable cause did not exist in the first place. A better way to demonstrate a lack of probable cause is to show that the case itself was faulty to begin with. For instance, malicious prosecution could apply in cases that never made it to trial in the first place because of an early dismissal. Prosecutors, a grand jury, or a judge may all dismiss a case prior to an actual trial, perhaps on grounds on lack of evidence or because of problems with the case.

Still, it is difficult to sue on grounds of malicious prosecution since prosecutors are generally immune from litigation. However, if you discover that the prosecution stepped outside the boundaries of normal prosecutorial duties to gain evidence against you, you would have stronger grounds for litigation. Examples of this include if somebody presented false evidence against you, or if the prosecution knowingly solicited fabricate evidence to incriminate you.

Keep in mind this article was written to educate readers on criminal law topics and does not offer any legal advice.