Supreme Court Issues Significant Clarification About Malicious Prosecution Claims

The Supreme Court just made it slightly easier to bring the claim of a criminal prosecution in the Fourth Amendment.

Thompson V. Clark arose when the father of a new baby was detained and arrested due to his baby’s diaper rash. Larry Thompson, the father Larry Thompson, claimed that the state had charged him, even though the prosecutors did not have any evidence to suggest that he had committed an offense. In a ruling of 6-3 that the justices ruled for Larry Thompson’s father. They defined the necessary elements to be successful in bringing a civil rights lawsuit against law enforcement officials who are knowingly and illegally charge someone with the commission of an offense.

How Malicious Prosecution Cases Work

The lower courts as well as SCOTUS have previously clarified that prosecuting someone who has malicious intention without a reasonable basis for why that they have committed a crime is a violation of the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The majority of the court affirmed this rule with respect to the Thompson.

In order to prevail on a claim of defamation under the Fourth Amendment, the person seeking compensation must prove they were the victim of a case which

  • Malice involved and not with likely cause
  • The accused’s rights are protected (the “favorable end” principle) as well as
  • Damage to the victim wrongly of being accused.

The Supreme Court established the favorable ending rule in 1994’s Heck v. Humphrey. The concept is that the defendant has to be found not guilty during a trial before a jury and had the verdict upheld on appeal, or in any other way prove that the defendant “won” the instance. This rule has grey zones. The prosecutor has a lot of discretion. They are able to decide to drop charges against anyone without justification. If the prosecutor decides to drop an investigation without an explanation, will it be decided in favor of the defendant?

It was the main issue of Thompson in Thompson v. Clark, which SCOTUS resolved on April 4. The Justices decided that the decision to drop charges without explanations is in fact, a victory for the defendant in the sense of making a malicious prosecution claim in the context of SS 1983.

Diaper Rashes Lead to Arrest

The truth about Thompsonare quite simple. Diaper rash is an annoyance that’s a typical problem for infants and young children. The cause is frequent changing of diapers and/or sensitized skin. It can result in the skin becoming red and inflamed on areas that are diapered. This is a frequent cause of anxiety among new parents however, it’s not a serious condition if it is taken care of. If the more frequent change doesn’t make a difference, a prescription drug tends to be enough to eliminate the issue.

However, a Brooklyn, New York father was arrested after a infant’s diaper rash after his wife didn’t recognize the rash as the cause and instead called police for a report of kid sexual assault. She suffers from what the plaintiff described as “cognitive delay.”

EMTs were first at the home, but Thompson did not allow them access. The EMTs returned a time later, with police. Although the details aren’t clear but the final outcome was the authorities bringing the baby to the hospital in which they did not find any evidence for sexual assault. Thompson was held for 2 days in the jail and was charged with obstruction of authorities and refusing to be arrested. Both charges were dismissed with no an explanation from the prosecution or the judge who presided.

The father filed an unjust conviction lawsuit in the NYPD. But, on the basis of established precedent that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals was rightly in the favour of NYPD as, to date the dropped case did not comply with the rule of favorable termination.

Majority opens the door for more malicious Prosecution Claims

Justice Kavanaugh wrote the opinion in the court’s favor, and was along with five justices. In order to comprehend the majority’s opinion that we need to first take a examine SS 1983. The law was initially included in the Ku Klux Klan Act, the law gives the private citizen to bring an recourse for constitutionally-infringing violations.

To decide if Thompson had to prove the favorable resolution to be able to bring an action for malicious prosecution under the Fourth Amendment, Justice Kavanaugh took a look back to 1871, the year that Congress adopted the Ku Klux Klan Act. Justice Kavanaugh found that American judges and the legal treatises from the time were on the same page that a typical legal claim of malicious prosecution was not a requirement for an affirmative settlement to the victim. Therefore, American courts today should permit similar claims of criminal prosecution in the Fourth Amendment.

What is a Clarification or “Chimera”?

Justices Alito, Thomas, and Gorsuch were not in agreement. The dissent said that the majority erred in mixing the common law claim of malicious prosecution along with the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures, which resulted in a “chimera” made up of two distinct allegations. The dissent, however, argued that the court should be able to eliminate criminal prosecution allegations within the Fourth Amendment altogether. Justice Alito wrote that Thompson could have filed constitutional lawsuits for unlawful arrest, over-force, and illegal access.

With the majority of people for relaxation of the “favorable result” standard for cases claiming criminal intent under the Fourth Amendment, it may be a bit more straightforward for plaintiffs to prove the requirements of malicious prosecution going forward.

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