Prosecutorial Vindictiveness Law and Legal Definition

Prosecutorial vindictiveness is defined as vengeful prosecution for the recovery of damages to person, property, of reputation, shown to have approximately resulted from a previous civil or criminal proceeding, which was commenced or continued without probable cause, but with vengeance, and which has terminated unsuccessfully. Riegel v. Hygrade Seed Co., 47 F. Supp. 290, 293 (D.N.Y. 1942)

Prosecutorial vindictiveness refers to filing a lawsuit for purposes of harassing the defendant when there is no genuine basis for the suit. If the defendant in the lawsuit wins and has evidence that the suit was filed out of harassing or vengeful motives and without any legal or factual foundation, it may be the basis of a claim for damages against the person who filed the original action. If vindictive prosecution is clearly proved against the party who brought the original suit, punitive damages may be awarded along with special and general damages.

In some cases, courts have held that an attorney who knowingly assists a client in filing a baseless lawsuit out of malice may also be liable for damages. Before bringing a suit for a vindictive prosecution, the original lawsuit must be decided in favor of the victim.