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US Supreme Court Reverses Dismissal of 42 U.S.C. 1983 Claim for Malicious Prosecution

Thompson v. Clark Docket: 20-659, Opinion Date: April 4, 2022. Thompson was living with his fiancée and their newborn baby in a Brooklyn apartment. Thompson’s sister-in-law, apparently suffering from mental illness, called 911 to report that Thompson was sexually abusing the baby. When Emergency Medical Technicians arrived, Thompson denied that anyone had called 911. The EMTs returned with police officers, Thompson told them that they could not enter without a warrant. The police nonetheless entered. Thompson was arrested and charged with obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest. EMTs took the baby to the hospital where medical professionals examined her and found no signs of abuse. Thompson was detained for two days. The charges against Thompson were dismissed without any explanation. The Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Thompson’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim. The Supreme Court reversed, resolving a split among the Circuits. To demonstrate favorable termination of criminal prosecution for purposes of a section 1983 Fourth Amendment malicious prosecution claim, a plaintiff need not show that the criminal prosecution ended with some affirmative indication of innocence but need only show that his prosecution ended without a conviction. The American tort-law consensus as of 1871 did not require a plaintiff in a malicious prosecution suit to show that his prosecution ended with an affirmative indication of innocence; similarly construing Thompson’s claim is consistent with “the values and purposes” of the Fourth Amendment. Questions concerning whether a defendant was wrongly charged, or whether an individual may seek redress for wrongful prosecution, cannot reasonably depend on whether the prosecutor or court explained why charges were dismissed. Requiring a plaintiff to show that his prosecution ended with an affirmative indication of innocence is not necessary to protect officers from unwarranted civil suits.

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