Criminal Defense

Do People Who are Wrongfully Imprisoned Get Compensation?

February 22, 2023 by Madison Ferguson in Criminal Defense  Rights  
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Were You The Victim of Wrongful Imprisonment?

Yes, wrongfully convicted people do get compensation.

However, victims of unjust convictions are routinely refused compensation based on technicalities or rules restricting the amount of compensation awarded, even in states where compensation is authorized. Compensation laws are rare, and the few states with them tend to be too restrictive regarding who is eligible for compensation and the maximum amount the victim can get.

Since 1989, more than 200 individuals have been wrongly convicted and exonerated, according to ACLU data. Furthermore, there are now over 650 inmates on death row, with estimates placing the number of wrongly convicted between 2% and 10%. It takes African Americans disproportionately long periods to be exonerated from false convictions, averaging nine years.

Who May Receive Compensation?

In general, to be entitled to compensation, a wrongly convicted individual must:

Be Convicted of a Felony: The compensation-seeking individual must have been convicted of a felony, not a misdemeanor. Several crimes might be classed as both misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are classified as less severe offenses and are punished by up to a year in prison. Considered more severe than misdemeanors, felonies are generally penalized by more than one year in jail. Regarding crimes against property, the greater the devastation to property or the value of the items taken, the greater the likelihood that the offense would be classified as a felony instead of a misdemeanor. In terms of crimes against the person, the severity of the injury increases the likelihood that the offense is a felony.

Time Spent in a State Prison: When a crime’s severity is deemed less severe, incarceration is often served in a county jail. To be eligible for compensation for an erroneous conviction, an individual must have spent their sentence in a state prison institution, not a county jail facility.

What Could Damage Your Case?

In some states, you may not qualify for compensation if you:

  • Resulted in your unjust conviction — In many areas, including California, the District of Columbia, and Iowa, you are disqualified for compensation if you pled guilty or falsely confessed to the crime.
  • Have another conviction for a felony

The California Innocence Project

An organization that goes above and above to investigate and perhaps exonerate falsely condemned persons is the California Innocence Project. Throughout a case, the organization focuses on three primary factors:

  • The investigative evidence that was presented
  • Whether or not the accused was adequately defended.
  • Attempts to overturn a conviction by means such as DNA testing after the fact when none existed
  • The State’s Actions for Wrongfully Convicted Individuals: The Claims Compensation Procedure

California has made great strides in providing a robust legal framework to aid exonerees. At present, the procedure for filing a claim is governed by Penal Code sections 851.6, 851.8, 4900–4906, and 1485.5. Most recently, the Senate enacted Bill 269. It allows exonerees and anyone unfairly convicted to file claims for compensation with the appropriate California State board.

However, the following steps must be taken before an exoneree is eligible to collect compensation from the state board:

  • Within two years after their release, exonerees who seek to submit claims must do so.
  • If the Board finds the claim justified based on the information given, it will recommend compensation be paid to the state legislature.
  • It will then be included in the budget measure as a proposal.
  • A joint Assembly and Senate committee would then have to vote on the bill.

Upon the bill’s approval by both houses of the legislature and the governor’s signature, the State’s general fund would pay out the claim to the exoneree. After the compensation is accepted, the exoneree may get paid for each day they were wrongfully incarcerated, whether in a prison or another facility.

How Much Money Can You Get?

Even in jurisdictions with wrongful conviction compensations provisions, the amount of money an exoneree may collect varies greatly.

An exoneree in California may receive $100 per day, or $36,500 per year if their claim is approved by the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (the Board). Yet, a guy in Long Beach, California, decided to take legal action against the city rather than submit a claim to the Board. He went to jail for 24 years and got out after agreeing to pay $7.95 million. This amounts to more than $900 daily, far more than the law allows.

An accomplished wrongful imprisonment attorney may help you pursue financial restitution if you were unfairly convicted and later exonerated.

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Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Attorney who has over 21 years of practice defending a variety of cases.

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Lara S.
December 3, 2019
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How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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