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What Is Wrongful Prosecution?

Wrongful prosecution can lead to an innocent person being incarcerated.
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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2014
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Wrongful prosecution occurs when false information or baseless claims are made to engage a person in legal proceedings. This can lead to grossly unjust situations, such as a person being incarcerated despite his innocence. There are remedies available for victims of wrongful prosecution, including the ability to appeal and have a conviction overturned and the ability to sue and win financial compensation. In most jurisdictions, there is a statute of limitations for seeking remedies on these grounds.

The legal system is designed to administer justice and to protect peoples' rights. Wrongful prosecution is a situation in which the system is used contrary to its purpose. This situation actually involves depriving a person of his rights and treating him unjustly. This is done when a person is unfairly forced into legal proceedings. These situations often involve the accusing party using false and erroneous information or making claims it knows are unfounded.

There are a number of actions that can be taken if a person feels he is a victim of wrongful prosecution. There have been instances where law enforcement officials have intentionally provided false information to convict an individual. As a result, those who endured this wrongful prosecution suffered in numerous ways, including having their reputations marred and being unjustly incarcerated. To change the status of his conviction and to be released, in the event of incarceration, a person can appeal.

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In these instances, it may also be possible to sue the law enforcement agency or agent and to recover monetary damages. Wrongful prosecution is not limited to criminal cases, however. In civil cases, damages may be sought for expenses that occurred, such as time missed from work and attorney's fees.

A person generally cannot take action against the opposing party for wrongful prosecution until the proceedings in the matter have concluded. If the outcome of the proceedings is in favor of the person who was falsely accused, he usually cannot initiate a wrongful prosecution lawsuit, although he may have suffered substantial harm. In instances where an individual is allowed to initiate such a case, he will have the burden of showing that the opposing party was actively involved in furthering action it knew to be unjust. For example, in the cases where police provide false information, it is usually necessary to show beyond a reasonable doubt that it was acting consciously to help secure a wrongful conviction.

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