The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the underlying criminal matter brought against the plaintiffs (the Melchers) by the town had been terminated in favor of the plaintiffs. Therefore the plaintiffs’ malicious prosecution action against the town should not have been dismissed. The town brought criminal charges based upon plaintiffs’ construction of docks in a marina. Pursuant to the Navigation Law, the state owns the land beneath the lake and the town, therefore, did not have jurisdiction to bring the criminal charges. The criminal charges had been dismissed on that ground:
In order to maintain a civil action to recover damages for malicious prosecution, a plaintiff must show “(1) the commencement or continuation of a criminal proceeding by the defendant against the plaintiff, (2) the termination of the proceeding in favor of the accused, (3) the absence of probable cause for the criminal proceeding, and (4) actual malice” … . A criminal proceeding terminates favorably to the accused where the disposition is final, “such that the proceeding cannot be brought again” … , and the disposition is not “inconsistent with a plaintiff’s innocence” … . Whether a disposition was inconsistent with innocence is a case-specific determination that considers the circumstances of the particular case … .
Here, the 2008 criminal proceeding was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction pursuant to CPL 170.30(1)(f) because the Town lacked legal authority to regulate the activity upon which the criminal charges were based. In the dismissal order, the Supreme Court found that “jurisdiction over the [Melchners] ha[d] never been properly obtained and accordingly the [Melchners] [could] not be prosecuted for the offenses alleged.” Under the circumstances, the disposition was not inconsistent with the Melchners’ innocence … . Melchner v Town of Carmel, 2021 NY Slip Op 03830, Second Dept 6-16-21