In the realm of criminal law, the dismissal of charges is often seen as a victory. It signifies that the court has deemed the evidence insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the aftermath often raises an important question: Can you sue for wrongful arrest or malicious prosecution?
This article delves into this complex issue, focusing on the legal landscape of South Carolina. If you have been arrested, a Greenville criminal defense lawyer can protect your rights. Contact Baldwin Law today for a free case evaluation.
The Meaning of Dismissed Charges in South Carolina
In the context of South Carolina’s legal system, when a case is dismissed, it signifies closure without a conviction for the defendant. This could occur due to various reasons, including but not limited to, lack of probable cause for arrest, improper criminal complaint or charging document, illegal stop or search, or insufficient evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt.
In some instances, key witnesses may be unavailable, further weakening the prosecution’s case.
The Possibility of Suing After Dismissal
The possibility of filing a lawsuit after the dismissal of charges is a nuanced issue, heavily dependent on the specifics of your case. If you believe your rights were violated during the arrest or prosecution process, you may have grounds to file a civil lawsuit. This could be for wrongful arrest, malicious prosecution, or even violation of your civil rights.
However, it’s crucial to understand that the dismissal of charges does not automatically imply misconduct on the part of law enforcement or the prosecution. The burden of proof in a criminal case is intentionally high to protect the innocent, and a dismissal could simply mean that there wasn’t enough evidence to meet this standard.
Circumstances Under Which You Can Sue
If you believe your rights were violated, it’s imperative to consult with an experienced attorney who can evaluate the specifics of your case. They can help determine whether you have a valid claim and guide you through the process of filing a lawsuit.
In certain cases, you may be able to sue for damages, including legal fees, lost wages, and emotional distress. However, these cases can be complex and require a thorough understanding of both criminal and civil law.
Understanding Malicious Prosecution vs Wrongful Arrest
Understanding the nuances between malicious prosecution and wrongful arrest can be confusing. Although these terms are interconnected, they each carry unique definitions and implications.
What Is Malicious Prosecution?
Malicious prosecution is the act of wrongfully initiating criminal proceedings against an individual without justifiable cause. It involves the deliberate and unjustified commencement of a lawsuit or criminal proceeding, devoid of probable cause, and primarily driven by an ulterior motive.
In South Carolina, a claim of malicious prosecution can be made when an individual has misused the justice system with the intent to cause harm. If you have been falsely accused of a crime or have been the target of a baseless lawsuit, you may be eligible to seek compensation for related expenses and other damages.
To establish a successful malicious prosecution claim in South Carolina, several elements must be demonstrated:
- A criminal or civil case was filed against you.
- The defendant (the person you are seeking damages from) instigated the filing of the case.
- The case concluded in your favor, indicating that you successfully defended yourself against the false claim.
- The claim was pursued with malice and without probable cause.
Understanding Wrongful Arrest
Wrongful arrest, also known as false arrest or unlawful arrest, is the illegal restraint of a person’s freedom of movement. It transpires when one person detains another person (the “arrestee”) without the arrestee’s consent and without lawful justification.
In South Carolina, false imprisonment is defined as the illegal detention or restraint of another’s freedom of movement, regardless of the duration, without justification or consent. A false imprisonment claim comprises four main elements:
- The confinement was without the victim’s consent.
- There was an intent to confine the victim.
- The victim was aware of the confinement or was harmed in some way by it.
- The victim was unaware of any means to escape confinement.
Call a Greenville Criminal Defense Lawyer Today!
While it may be possible to sue after charges are dismissed, the process is far from straightforward. The specifics of your case, the reason for the dismissal, and the conduct of law enforcement and the prosecution all play a significant role.
If you believe your rights were violated, it’s essential to consult with an experienced Greenville criminal defense attorney at Baldwin Law to explore your options. Your lawyer will attack any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.
Contact us at 864-630-8503 for a free case review.