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Roger, Attorney
Category: Business Law
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Experience:  BV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell; SuperLawyer rating by Thompson-Reuters
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Am I allowed to file a civil cause of action for theft by extortion? Utah

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Am I allowed to file a civil cause of action for theft by extortion?

Utah has a criminal offense for theft by extortion:

I'm involved in real estate and car loans. Occasionally, people threaten to make up charges to authorities to get out of paying debts. Usually, I let them know they are engaging in "theft by extortion" and they realize it's a stupid thing to do, but some people are really stupid and do file police reports to see if they can get out of paying debts by making up charges.

In a recent situation someone told the cops I had stolen a car I had repossessed to get out of making a payment on it. The police arrived and I had to show them all the contracts, etc. to show I had a right to the car. They apologized to me, but said they were "too busy" to press charges against the debtor for filing a false police report or for attempted theft by extortion.

This is especially frustrating to me. Law enforcement was ready to arrest me for auto theft, but will do nothing to the person who filed a false report.

So the question is: Do I have any civil remedies? May I sue under a criminal statute for civil damages for both filing a false police report and attempted theft by extortion and seek 100k in damages?
Hi - my name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm a Business litigation attorney. Thanks for your question.

The state of Utah does not recognize a civil claim for extortion - - only criminal. Here's a link to a case that outlines this:

If a person makes a false report against you, you can file a civil lawsuit for malicious prosecution and abuse of process for filing false claims against you. There may also be claims available for fraud or other civil causes of actionbased on the particulars of your case.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Is filing a false police report only a criminal matter then?

Is my civil cause "abuse of process"?

No, filing a false police report can be a civil claim too - - you can sue for malicious prosecution and abuse of process.

Also, criminal charges can be made for these things.
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Customer: replied 3 years ago.
As a follow up, suppose I sue for malicious prosecution, but in reality they had a valid claim. Does that matter?
I think they've run out of money for legal fees so I would get a default judgment. Do I have any risk of alleging malicious prosecution when the more I look at it maybe it wasn't so out of line after all? Or can I allege anything I want with just a tiny bit of substance to it?
Well, if the claim is valid then it wouldn't be malicious. Thus, your claim on these grounds would likely be dismissed.

However, if you sue for this and they don't challenge your claims, then you could win by default. There's nothing illegal about that. However, if they challenge, it would be difficult to sustain the claim.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
I agree. Is there ever a time where it would be illegal say to completely make up a claim for a cause of action such as a completely frivolous suit?

Yes, that is illegal - - and it's risky to do. Basically, you're betting on someone not responding to your allegations and winning by default.

HOWEVER, if this were to happen, a party can seek to have the judgment set aside if it was based on fraud, misrepresentation or some other improper action by the filing party. Also, if that were to happen, the defendant would have the right to sue for malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and other claims that combat frivolous lawsuits.

So, it's definitely not a good idea to file a lawsuit that's based on untruthful information or false allegations because it will likely be turned around at some point and end up causing a lot of damage to the filing party.

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