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Criminal Proceedings; Civil or Criminal Arrest-Generally

If the criminal process is used for its intended purpose, “the mere fact that it has some other collateral effect” does not leave the action an abuse of process.”  Thus, a defendant cannot be held liable for abusing the process if the person has done nothing more than carry out the process to its authorized conclusion, even though with bad intention or ulterior motive.[i]

The gravamen of the tort of abuse of process is not the wrongful procurement of legal process or the wrongful initiation of criminal or civil proceedings.  The crux is the improper use of the process after issuance, “no matter how properly obtained, for any purpose other than that which it was designed to accomplish.”[ii]  Hence, instigator’s personal like or dislike of the target of the process is not relevant for a claim of abuse of process.[iii]

However, where a civil or criminal arrest is used to effect an object beyond its scope, there is an abuse of process for which an action will lie.  For instance, if the plaintiff uses a warrant of arrest to extort money from the defendant or for giving up a claim, or to forcibly obtain defendant’s signature, such conduct is actionable.

If a civil or criminal process is used for its proper and intended purpose, the mere fact that it has some other collateral effect does not constitute abuse of process.  For instance, the criminal process against a defendant will not amount to an abuse of process even though it may incidentally and indirectly exert pressure for the collection of a debt. [iv]

Also, the malafide use of criminal proceedings as a pretext for getting a nonresident into the jurisdiction in order to serve him/her with civil process amounts to an abuse of process.[v]


[i] Gambocz v. Apel, 102 N.J. Super. 123, 128 (App.Div. 1968) 

[ii] Moore v. Michigan Nat’l Bank, 368 Mich. 71, 75 (Mich. 1962)

[iii] Schmit v. Klumpyan, 2003 WI App 107, P11 (Wis. Ct. App. 2003)

 [iv] Crease v. Pleasant Grove City, 30 Utah 2d 451, 455 (Utah 1974)

 [v] Wood v. Graves, 144 Mass. 365 (Mass. 1887)

Inside Criminal Proceedings; Civil or Criminal Arrest-Generally