Justice Scalia, delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case presents the question whether a state prisoner may challenge the constitutionality of his conviction in a suit for damages under 42 U. S. C. § 1983.
Petitioner Roy Heck was convicted in Indiana state court of voluntary manslaughter for the killing of Rickie Heck, his wife, and is serving a 15-year sentence in an Indiana prison. While the appeal from his conviction was pending, petitioner,
The District Court dismissed the action without prejudice, because the issues it raised "directly implicate the legality of [petitioner's] confinement," id., at 13. While petitioner's appeal to the Seventh Circuit was pending, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld his conviction and sentence on direct appeal, Heck v. State, 552 N.E.2d 446, 449 (Ind. 1990); his first petition for a writ of habeas corpus in Federal District Court was dismissed because it contained unexhausted claims; and his second federal habeas petition was denied, and the denial affirmed by the Seventh Circuit.
When the Seventh Circuit reached petitioner's appeal from dismissal of his § 1983 complaint, it affirmed the judgment and approved the reasoning of the District Court: "If, regardless of the relief sought, the plaintiff [in a federal civil
This case lies at the intersection of the two most fertile sources of federal-court prisoner litigation—the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Rev. Stat. § 1979, as amended, 42 U. S. C. § 1983, and the federal habeas corpus statute, 28 U. S. C. § 2254. Both of these provide access to a federal forum for claims of unconstitutional treatment at the hands of state officials, but they differ in their scope and operation. In general, exhaustion of state remedies "is not a prerequisite to an action under § 1983," Patsy v. Board of Regents of Fla., 457 U.S. 496, 501 (1982) (emphasis added), even an action by a state prisoner, id., at 509. The federal habeas corpus statute, by
Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973), considered the potential overlap between these two provisions, and held that habeas corpus is the exclusive remedy for a state prisoner who challenges the fact or duration of his confinement and seeks immediate or speedier release, even though such a claim may come within the literal terms of § 1983. Id., at 488-490. We emphasize that Preiser did not create an exception to the "no exhaustion" rule of § 1983; it merely held that certain claims by state prisoners are not cognizable under that provision, and must be brought in habeas corpus proceedings, which do contain an exhaustion requirement.
This case is clearly not covered by the holding of Preiser, for petitioner seeks not immediate or speedier release, but monetary damages, as to which he could not "have sought and obtained fully effective relief through federal habeas corpus proceedings." Id., at 488. See also id., at 494; Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 104 (1980). In dictum, however, Preiser asserted that since a state prisoner seeking only damages "is attacking something other than the fact or length of . . . confinement, and . . . is seeking something other than immediate or more speedy release[,] . . . a damages action by a state prisoner could be brought under [§ 1983] in federal court without any requirement of prior exhaustion of state remedies." 411 U. S., at 494. That statement may not be true, however, when establishing the basis for the damages claim necessarily demonstrates the invalidity of the
Before addressing that question, we respond to petitioner's contention that it has already been answered, in Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974). See Reply Brief for Petitioner 1. First of all, if Wolff had answered the question we would not have expressly reserved it 10 years later, as we did in Tower v. Glover, 467 U.S. 914 (1984). See id., at 923. And secondly, a careful reading of Wolff itself does not support the contention. Like Preiser, Wolff involved a challenge to the procedures used by state prison officials to deprive prisoners of good-time credits. The § 1983 complaint sought restoration of good-time credits as well as "damages for the deprivation of civil rights resulting from the use of the allegedly unconstitutional procedures." Wolff, supra, at 553. The Court said, after holding the claim for good-time credits to be foreclosed by Preiser, that the damages claim was nonetheless "properly before the District Court and required determination of the validity of the procedures employed for imposing sanctions, including loss of good time," 418 U. S., at 554. Petitioner contends that this language authorized the plaintiffs in Wolff to recover damages measured by the actual loss of good time. We think not. In light of the earlier language characterizing the claim as one of "damages for the deprivation of civil rights," rather than damages for the deprivation of good-time credits, we think this passage recognized a § 1983 claim for using the
Thus, the question posed by § 1983 damages claims that do call into question the lawfulness of conviction or confinement remains open. To answer that question correctly, we see no need to abandon, as the Seventh Circuit and those courts in agreement with it have done, our teaching that § 1983 contains no exhaustion requirement beyond what Congress has provided. Patsy, 457 U. S., at 501, 509. The issue with respect to monetary damages challenging conviction is not, it seems to us, exhaustion; but rather, the same as the issue was with respect to injunctive relief challenging conviction in Preiser: whether the claim is cognizable under § 1983 at all. We conclude that it is not.
"We have repeatedly noted that 42 U. S. C. § 1983 creates a species of tort liability." Memphis Community School Dist. v. Stachura, 477 U.S. 299, 305 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[O]ver the centuries the common law of torts has developed a set of rules to implement the principle that a person should be compensated fairly for injuries caused by the violation of his legal rights. These rules, defining the elements of damages and the prerequisites for their recovery, provide the appropriate starting point for the inquiry under § 1983 as well." Carey v. Piphus, 435 U.S. 247, 257-258 (1978). Thus, to determine whether there is any bar to the present suit, we look first to the common law of torts. Cf. Stachura, supra, at 306.
One element that must be alleged and proved in a malicious prosecution action is termination of the prior criminal proceeding in favor of the accused. Prosser and Keeton, supra, at 874; Carpenter v. Nutter, 127 Cal. 61, 59 P. 301 (1899). This requirement "avoids parallel litigation over the issues of probable cause and guilt . . . and it precludes the possibility of the claimant [sic] succeeding in the tort action after having been convicted in the underlying criminal prosecution, in contravention of a strong judicial policy against the creation of two conflicting resolutions arising out of the same or identical transaction." 8 S. Speiser, C. Krause, & A. Gans, American Law of Torts § 28:5, p. 24 (1991). Furthermore, "to permit a convicted criminal defendant to proceed with a malicious prosecution claim would permit a collateral attack on the conviction through the vehicle of a civil suit." Ibid.
We hold that, in order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid,
Applying these principles to the present action, in which both courts below found that the damages claims challenged the legality of the conviction, we find that the dismissal of the action was correct. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is
The Court and Justice Souter correctly begin their analyses with the realization that "[t]his case lies at the intersection of . . . the Civil Rights Act of 1871, Rev. Stat. § 1979, as amended, 42 U. S. C. § 1983, and the federal habeas corpus statute, 28 U. S. C. § 2254." Ante, at 480; post, at 491. One need only read the respective opinions in this case to understand
I write separately to note that it is we who have put § 1983 and the habeas statute on what Justice Souter appropriately terms a "collision course." Post, at 492. It has long been recognized that we have expanded the prerogative writ of habeas corpus and § 1983 far beyond the limited scope either was originally intended to have. Cf., e. g., Wright v. West, 505 U.S. 277, 285-286 (1992) (opinion of Thomas, J.) (habeas); Golden State Transit Corp. v. Los Angeles, 493 U.S. 103, 117 (1989) (Kennedy, J., dissenting) (§ 1983). Expanding the two historic statutes brought them squarely into conflict in the context of suits by state prisoners, as we made clear in Preiser.
Given that the Court created the tension between the two statutes, it is proper for the Court to devise limitations aimed at ameliorating the conflict, provided that it does so in a principled fashion. Cf. Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 342 (1986). Because the Court today limits the scope of § 1983 in a manner consistent both with the federalism concerns undergirding the explicit exhaustion requirement of the habeas statute, ante, at 483, and with the state of the common law at the time § 1983 was enacted, ante, at 484-486, and n. 4, I join the Court's opinion.
Justice Souter, with whom Justice Blackmun, Justice Stevens, and Justice O'Connor join, concurring in the judgment.
The Court begins its analysis as I would, by observing that "[t]his case lies at the intersection of the two most fertile sources of federal-court prisoner litigation—the Civil Rights Act of 1871, . . . 42 U. S. C. § 1983, and the federal habeas corpus statute, 28 U. S. C. § 2254," two statutes that
While I do not object to referring to the common law when resolving the question this case presents, I do not think that the existence of the tort of malicious prosecution alone provides the answer. Common-law tort rules can provide a "starting point for the inquiry under § 1983," Carey v. Piphus, 435 U.S. 247, 258 (1978), but we have relied on the common law in § 1983 cases only when doing so was thought to be consistent with ordinary rules of statutory construction, as when common-law principles have textual support in other provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, see, e. g., id., at 255-256 (damages under § 1983), or when those principles were so fundamental and widely understood at the time § 1983 was enacted that the 42d Congress could not be presumed to have abrogated them silently, see, e. g., Tenney v. Brandhove, 341 U.S. 367, 376 (1951) (immunity under § 1983); Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 553-554 (1967) (same). At the same time, we have consistently refused to allow commonlaw analogies to displace statutory analysis, declining to import even well-settled common-law rules into § 1983 "if [the statute's] history or purpose counsel against applying [such rules] in § 1983 actions." Wyatt v. Cole, 504 U.S. 158, 164 (1992); see also Tower v. Glover, 467 U.S. 914, 920-921 (1984). Cf. Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 645 (1987) ("[W]e have never suggested that the precise contours of official immunity
An examination of common-law sources arguably relevant in this case confirms the soundness of our hierarchy of principles for resolving questions concerning § 1983. If the common law were not merely a "starting point" for the analysis under § 1983, but its destination, then (unless we were to have some authority to choose common-law requirements we like and discard the others) principle would compel us to accept as elements of the § 1983 cause of action not only the malicious-prosecution tort's favorable-termination requirement, but other elements of the tort that cannot coherently be transplanted. In addition to proving favorable termination,
If, in addition, the common law were the master of statutory analysis, not the servant (to switch metaphors), we would find ourselves with two masters to contend with here, for we would be subject not only to the tort of malicious
Furthermore, even if the tort of malicious prosecution were today marginally more analogous than other torts to the type of § 1983 claim in the class of cases before us (because it alone may permit damages for unlawful conviction or postconviction confinement, see n. 3, infra ), the Court overlooks a significant historical incongruity that calls into question the utility of the analogy to the tort of malicious
That leaves the question of how to implement what statutory analysis requires. It is at this point that the maliciousprosecution tort's favorable-termination requirement becomes helpful, not in dictating the elements of a § 1983 cause of action, but in suggesting a relatively simple way to avoid collisions at the intersection of habeas and § 1983. A state prisoner may seek federal-court § 1983 damages for unconstitutional conviction or confinement, but only if he has previously established the unlawfulness of his conviction or confinement, as on appeal or on habeas. This has the effect of requiring a state prisoner challenging the lawfulness of his confinement to follow habeas's rules before seeking § 1983 damages for unlawful confinement in federal court, and it is ultimately the Court's holding today. It neatly resolves a problem that has bedeviled lower courts, see 997 F.2d 355, 357-358 (CA7 1993) (decision below); Young v. Kenny, supra, at 877 (discussing cases), legal commentators, see Schwartz, The Preiser Puzzle, 37 DePaul L. Rev. 85, 86-87, n. 6 (1988)
It may be that the Court's analysis takes it no further than I would thus go, and that any objection I may have to the Court's opinion is to style, not substance. The Court acknowledges the habeas exhaustion requirement and explains that it is the reason that the habeas statute "intersect[s]"
That would be a sensible way to read the opinion, in part because the alternative would needlessly place at risk the rights of those outside the intersection of § 1983 and the habeas statute, individuals not "in custody" for habeas purposes. If these individuals (people who were merely fined, for example, or who have completed short terms of imprisonment, probation, or parole, or who discover (through no fault of their own) a constitutional violation after full expiration of their sentences), like state prisoners, were required to show the prior invalidation of their convictions or sentences in order to obtain § 1983 damages for unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, the result would be to deny any federal forum for claiming a deprivation of federal rights to those who cannot first obtain a favorable state ruling. The reason, of course, is that individuals not "in custody" cannot invoke federal habeas jurisdiction, the only statutory mechanism besides § 1983 by which individuals may sue state officials in federal court for violating federal rights. That would be an untoward result.
It would be an entirely different matter, however, to shut off federal courts altogether to claims that fall within the plain language of § 1983. "[I]rrespective of the common law support" for a general rule disfavoring collateral attacks, the Court lacks the authority to do any such thing absent unambiguous congressional direction where, as here, reading § 1983 to exclude claims from federal court would run counter to "§ 1983's history" and defeat the statute's "purpose." Wyatt v. Cole, 504 U. S., at 158. Consider the case of a former slave framed by Ku Klux Klan-controlled lawenforcement officers and convicted by a Klan-controlled state court of, for example, raping a white woman; and suppose that the unjustly convicted defendant did not (and could not) discover the proof of unconstitutionality until after his
Nor do I see any policy reflected in a congressional enactment that would justify denying to an individual today federal damages (a significantly less disruptive remedy than an order compelling release from custody) merely because he was unconstitutionally fined by a State, or to a person who discovers after his release from prison that, for example, state officials deliberately withheld exculpatory material. And absent such a statutory policy, surely the common law can give us no authority to narrow the "broad language" of § 1983, which speaks of deprivations of "any" constitutional rights, privileges, or immunities, by "[e]very" person acting under color of state law, and to which "we have given full effect [by] recognizing that § 1983 `provide[s] a remedy, to be broadly construed, against all forms of official violation of federally protected rights.' " Dennis v. Higgins, 498 U.S. 439, 443, 445 (1991) (quoting Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 700-701 (1978)).
We also decline to pursue, without implying the nonexistence of, another issue, suggested by the Court of Appeals' statement that, if petitioner's "conviction were proper, this suit would in all likelihood be barred by res judicata." 997 F.2d 355, 357 (CA7 1993). The res judicata effect of state-court decisions in § 1983 actions is a matter of state law. See Migra v. Warren City School Dist. Bd. of Ed., 465 U.S. 75 (1984).
Yet even if Justice Souter were correct in asserting that a prior conviction, although reversed, "dissolved [a] claim for malicious prosecution," post, at 496, our analysis would be unaffected. It would simply demonstrate that no common-law action, not even malicious prosecution, would permit a criminal proceeding to be impugned in a tort action, even after the conviction had been reversed. That would, if anything, strengthen our belief that § 1983, which borrowed general tort principles, was not meant to permit such collateral attack.
Moreover, we do not decide whether abstention might be appropriate in cases where a state prisoner brings a § 1983 damages suit raising an issue that also could be grounds for relief in a state-court challenge to his conviction or sentence. Cf. Tower v. Glover, 467 U.S. 914, 923 (1984).
"Section 1983 `creates a species of tort liability that on its face admits of no immunities.' Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 417 (1976). Nonetheless, we have accorded certain government officials either absolute or qualified immunity from suit if the `tradition of immunity was so firmly rooted in the common law and was supported by such strong policy reasons that "Congress would have specifically so provided had it wished to abolish the doctrine."` Owen v. City of Independence, 445 U.S. 622, 637 (1980) (quoting Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 555 (1967)). If parties seeking immunity were shielded from tort liability when Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1871—§ 1 of which is codified at 42 U. S. C. § 1983—we infer from legislative silence that Congress did not intend to abrogate such immunities when it imposed liability for actions taken under color of state law. See Tower v. Glover, 467 U.S. 914, 920 (1984); Imbler, supra, at 421; Pulliam v. Allen, 466 U.S. 522, 529 (1984). Additionally, irrespective of the common law support, we will not recognize an immunity available at common law if § 1983's history or purpose counsel against applying it in § 1983 actions. Tower, supra, at 920. See also Imbler, supra, at 424-429." Id., at 163-164. In his concurrence, Justice Kennedy stated: "It must be remembered that unlike the common-law judges whose doctrines we adopt, we are devising limitations to a remedial statute, enacted by the Congress, which `on its face does not provide for any immunities.' " Id., at 171 (quoting Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 342 (1986)) (emphasis added in Malley ).