Stories continuously surface about wrongful convictions. Many gain their freedom, but what about compensation? Some states, fortunately, have passed laws allowing wrongfully convicted individuals to receive compensation.
Stories continuously surface about various individuals located all throughout the country who have been wrongfully convicted. Many are exonerated after serving decade-long prison sentences for crimes they didn't commit. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, there were 87 record-breaking exonerations in 2013 alone.
Just recently, a Louisiana man was exonerated after he was wrongfully convicted in 1996 of the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl. He spent 15 years on death row before officially being released from prison. His story has gained widespread attention, but not for the reasons many would think. Although allegations of prosecutorial misconduct seem to be at the heart, compensation for his wrongful conviction is also being profiled.
Compensation for wrongful convictions
In some states, individuals are allowed to pursue compensation for their wrongful convictions. Presently, there are 29 states plus the District of Columbia that have statutes outlining such stipulations. Federal law also allows for such awards for individuals wrongfully convicted of federal crimes.
But each statute differs. Some, unfortunately, have monetary caps or other restrictions.
Contrasting compensation laws
The state of Louisiana, for instance, caps wrongful conviction awards at $250,000, regardless of the number of years served. Alternately, the state of Florida caps awards at $2 million.
Others states have imposed restrictions rather than caps. In Missouri, for instance, only those exonerated through DNA testing are eligible for compensation. Similarly, the state of Connecticut does not impose any monetary restrictions, but stipulates factors that must be utilized to determine damage awards.
Compensation in Connecticut
Such factors to determine wrongful conviction awards in Connecticut include but are not limited to:
- Loss of liberty and enjoyment of life
- Loss of earnings and future earning capacity
- Loss of reputation
- Loss of personal relationships
Physical and mental pain and suffering are also considered. And, along with monetary awards, services to reintegrate an individual back into the community are offered as well. Job training, counseling, and college tuition are among the list.
States offering no compensation
Sadly, many states like Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, and others do not have any laws that provide for monetary compensation or services for those wrongfully convicted. In these jurisdictions, individuals who have spent years institutionalized win their freedom back, but cannot pick up where they left off upon their release. They often need counseling, job training, and probationary services. Some exonerees can pursue a civil rights lawsuit in these states, but will likely face a long and stressful uphill legal battle.
Individuals with questions about compensation as it pertains to a specific jurisdiction are encouraged to consult with a criminal defense attorney who can offer greater guidance on the law.
Keywords: criminal defense, wrongful convictions, compensation