Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Technical dismissal of criminal claim undercuts malicious prosecution claim

In order to bring a malicious prosecution claim, you have to show the police lacked probable cause to arrest you and that they did so with malice. Malicious prosecution cases are like false arrest cases in that respect. As one judge used to love to say in federal court years ago, when the police arrest someone and the court throws out the conviction, that's giving the defendant a ticket to the courthouse. But that ticket does not always result in victory.

The case is LaBoy v. County of Ontario, a summary order decided on September 9. Plaintiff was arrested for harassment. The police said he resisted arrest, and a Grand Jury indicted and a public jury convicted. But the Appellate Division reversed the conviction because the accusatory instrument that alleged LaBoy had done these things was not written by an officer who had witnessed the crimes. Facial insufficiency is a nice, clean way to overturn a conviction, because all the appellate court has to do is check to ensure the documents were prepared properly. But what does a facial insufficiency dismissal mean for a malicious prosecution case?

To win a malicious prosecution case, you have to show the criminal proceedings terminated in your favor and the police cannot arrest you again for that event. Malicious prosecution cases are more profitable for plaintiffs than mere false arrest claims, which only entitle you to damages until the date of your arraignment. In malicious prosecution cases, you get damages for the hassles of being prosecuted long after the arraignment.

While a facial insufficiency conviction reversal is all well and good if you want to erase the conviction from your record, it is not enough to bring a malicious prosecution claim. The Court of Appeals (Pooler, Parker and Livingston) says: "When an arrest is dismissed on the grounds of legal insufficiency, ... rather than pure innocence, courts have found that the was not a termination in favor of the plaintiff."

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