Abuse of Process in Criminal Proceedings

Civil wrongs that don't cause bodily harm can be classified as "dignitary torts," which are wrongs that have diminished someone's reputation or dignity. Defamation, malicious prosecution, and abuse of the legal system are just a few instances of dignitary torts. Abuse of process is when someone uses the legal system in a manner that does not always serve the main legal action. Instead, another goal is achieved through the abuse of procedures. An abuse of process claim can be made against someone even if the fundamental legal grounds for the lawsuit were legitimate, despite the tort sounding somewhat similar to malicious prosecution.

Meaning of Abuse of Process

Abuse of process is the practice of utilizing the courts or the legal system for inappropriate or illegal ends. Such misconduct results from motions that are pointless or improper, or from motions that lead the court to issue a warrant, summons, or other command. Serving legal papers that were never submitted to the court with the intention of frightening someone is another example of abuse of process.

Example: A neighborhood furniture shop sold Alaska a sitting room sofa set. A few weeks later, she decides she doesn't like it and wants to return the set for a complete refund. Because there doesn't seem to be a manufacturer's defect, the furniture shop won't accept the return, which infuriates Alaska. She creates a scene at the shop, yelling that the business is dishonest, and angrily threatens to fire the manager by the time she's finished with him.

Because the small claims procedure will take a while, Alaska wants her money back so she can purchase an alternative set of furniture. Despite never having been submitted to the court, she acquires the required paperwork to bring a small claims lawsuit against the shop, fills it out, and has a process server deliver it to the manager. The use of fraudulently served, ineffective papers by Alaska to intimidate the business into giving her money back is an example of abuse of the legal system.

The Elements of Abuse of Process

A person commits a purposeful tort known as abuse of process when they willfully misuse a legal procedure without justification in a civil or criminal case. The elements that a plaintiff must show in order to succeed in court, as with most torts, differ from state to state.

In a case alleging abuse of process, a plaintiff typically has to demonstrate the following elements −

  • The use of a procedure with an ulterior goal or intention.

  • Using a procedure in a way that is improper for the regular pursuit of legal proceedings.

Example: A claim for abuse of process may be available if someone uses a deposition for a purpose unrelated to the case. Once again, both the case and the underlying cause of action may be entirely legitimate. However, since the deposition in this instance does not further the goals of the lawsuit, it is more likely that one could successfully claim that procedural abuse is occurring.

Abuse of Process in Criminal Proceedings

In criminal instances, there are many ways that the legal process could get derailed. Furthermore, the process starts at the outset with police investigations, probable cause, and arrests. This means that depositions and subpoenas might be issued for nefarious reasons. Although the details of abuse of process claims vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, in the majority of cases, a party may assert an abuse of process claim without the entire proceeding—that is, the entire lawsuit or criminal investigation—having been without merit.

Such a claim may be founded on a violation of procedural rules, the improper use of tools like discovery, or the act of gathering data and evidence without a legal basis. In general, judges are reluctant to dismiss an entire claim due to such misconduct, but they may make decisions about particular issues or exclude certain types of evidence. To safeguard the public's right to utilize the legal system, malicious abuse of process is defined so narrowly.

As a result, the tort of abuse of process is regarded as a perversion of the legal process that involves using a process for a purpose other than what it was meant for after it has started. It is typically accepted that adequate evidence to support the beginning of criminal procedures without a good faith belief that the defendant will be found guilty is a claim of abuse of process.

Such systemic misuse might also be regarded as malicious prosecution. It may be difficult to demonstrate that the prosecution lacked probable cause because it must be demonstrated that it did not have a reasonable expectation that the accusations could be proven accurate.

Abuse of Process vs. Malicious Prosecution

Although they share similarities, malicious prosecution and abuse of process each require the plaintiff to show a different set of elements. If someone maliciously initiates or maintains a criminal or civil case against them without having sufficient justification, they may be held liable for malicious prosecution. On the other hand, abuse of process happens when a legal strategy or procedure has been abused for nefarious ends despite there being a good reason or probable cause for the case.

The plaintiff also needs to demonstrate that the case was dismissed to their benefit in order to be effective in a malicious prosecution lawsuit. In contrast, a lawsuit for abuse of process can be filed against someone whether or not there is a valid legal basis for the legal action and regardless of whether the initial case was dismissed.


Abuse of process refers to when a plaintiff or candidate in a lawsuit uses the court system or the legal system unreasonably or unjustly to further their claim. A claim that is made by the respondent or defendant that the other party is abusing or perverting a regularly issued court procedure (civil or criminal) is one that is not supported by the legal action that is the basis for the claim. In contrast to the deliberate tort of malicious prosecution, it is classified under common law as a tort.


Q1. What is Ratio Decidendi?

Ans. Ratio decidendi is a legal term that means "the reason" or "the driving force". All moral, political, or social theories that a judge uses to support its justification for making a decision in a case are included in the idea of ratio.

Q2. What is the meaning of Retribution?

Ans. In its most basic form, the word "retribution" refers to acts of vengeance. Setting a punishment that "fits the crime" is known in the legal community as retribution. In other terms, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," or "an eye for an eye,"

Q3. What do you mean by Comity?

Ans. The Latin word comitas, which means "friendly" or "courteous," is where the word "comity" originates. In the context of law, comity refers to the cooperation of various states, jurisdictions, or tribunals for a common good.

Updated on: 11-Apr-2023


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