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Abuse of process refers to the improper use of a civil or criminal legal procedure for an unintended, malicious, or perverse reason. Examples include serving legal papers on someone which have not actually been filed with the intent to intimidate, or filing a lawsuit without a genuine legal basis in order to obtain information, force payment through fear of legal entanglement or gain an unfair or illegal advantage. The determination of what is unfair and wrong is for the court to determine on the individual facts of each case.
Lawyers who can be proven guilty of intentional abuse of process can be subject to discipline and punishment. Sometimes abuse of process may occur accidentally, such as an honest belief in mistaken facts used to bring a lawsuit against an improper party, but such missteps may be corrected through voluntary measures.