If My Charges Are Dismissed, Can I Sue?

False accusations and wrongful arrests can be overwhelming experiences. Even if the charges are dismissed, the monetary, mental, and emotional expenses of any case can leave a lasting impact. However, the mere dismissal of those charges does not necessarily entitle defendants to sue for compensation or damages.

There are quite a few nuances within the legal implications of dismissed cases than most people realize, which is where the assistance of a criminal defense attorney in Greenville, SC can come in handy.

You Usually Cannot Sue If Charges Are Dismissed

It is recommended that you trust the knowledge and expertise of a criminal defense attorney in Greenville, SC regarding the specific circumstances and details of your case. For instance, he or she will educate you on the full scope of what a presumption of innocence means.

This Constitution-based principle declares that you are considered innocent until proven guilty within a court of law. That presumption is not impacted by the dismissal of the charges against you. Additionally, the mere fact that you were charged with a crime does not provide grounds for a lawsuit if those charges are subsequently dismissed.

Understanding the Impact of Qualified Immunity

Before you dive into filing lawsuit paperwork and calculating damages, you must first understand the impactful role played by qualified immunity. This is a judicially established doctrine specifically designed to offer protection to public officials. According to the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), it prevents them from being held liable while performing “acts necessary in their job.”

In most cases, defendants cannot sue if charges are dismissed.

qualified immunity protects prosecutors from lawsuits

How Can You Prove Malicious Prosecution?

To have proper grounds for a lawsuit against your accusers, you must be able to prove the existence of what is referred to as “malicious prosecution.” The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School defines it as a prosecution conducted with an improper purpose, without probable cause, and in bad faith. It implies that the charges were filed against you with an intent for harm instead of the pursuit of justice.

To file a lawsuit based on the grounds of malicious prosecution, several factors must be in place.

  • No Probable Cause: You must prove that the original charges against you were filed without adequate supporting evidence or reasonable grounds.
  • Favorable Termination of Your Case: The criminal case must have had a favorable conclusion on your behalf – such as through an acquittal or dismissal without prejudice.
  • Prosecution-Caused Suffering: You must be able to prove that you suffered damages or harm specifically because of the malicious prosecution. This can include (but is not limited to) financial losses, reputational damage, or emotional distress.

South Carolina courts typically uphold the value of these factors when recognizing the tort of malicious prosecution. One example is the case of Harrell vs Sessions (2007) where the SC Supreme Court emphasized the requirement of demonstrating malice and a lack of probable cause with these types of claims.

This is why it is crucial that you trust in the expertise and guidance of your criminal defense attorney in Greenville, SC to identify whether you have all the factors needed to pursue a lawsuit.

Discuss Your Case With a Greenville Criminal Defense Attorney

Defendants whose charges are dismissed don’t automatically have the right to file a lawsuit. However, it is possible to sue for malicious prosecution. These cases are often challenging to prove.

If you are accused of a crime, a criminal defense attorney in Greenville, SC will help you understand your options clearly. Call Boatwright Legal today to schedule your free consultation and map out a solid plan of where you go from here.