Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act

There is nothing more tragic than an innocent person who spends his or her whole life in prison. The checks and balances of the criminal justice system were initially put into place under the auspices that one is innocent until proven guilty and that it is better to let a guilty person free, than to imprison an innocent person. Though that may be the ideal, in practice, our society sees many situations in which a person has been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There are mechanisms that each state puts into place in an attempt to balance wrongful conviction and the years lost to incarceration. Each state has its own policy on the type of compensation that is provided to those proven to be wrongfully convicted, and this is known as the Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act.

If you have been wrongfully incarcerated and believe you are owed compensation under this Act, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.

Florida’s Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act and its “Clean Hands” Provision

The Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act puts into place a mechanism by which compensation can be provided to any person who has been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for a crime. In Florida, since 2014, the law of the land found that those who have not been previously convicted of an unrelated felony are entitled to $50,000 for every year that they have been in prison, with a maximum cap at $2 million. In 2014, the law had changed from what its previous version was to include a “Clean Hands” provision, which would state that compensation would only be given to those who have never been convicted of a felony previously, even if the felony is completely unrelated to the wrongful conviction at hand. In other words, if someone was convicted for robbery as a young person, and then later in life, was wrongfully convicted for the murder of a person and spends years in prison, he or she, after being exonerated, would not be eligible to receive compensation due to his or her earlier conviction for felony robbery.

The Impact of the “Clean Hands” Provision

According to one study associated with the “Clean Hands” provision, it was estimated that since 1979, out of the 26 exonerees from death row in Florida, only four would be compensated. With a change in the law being put forth this year, it would open the opportunity for compensation to 10 of those exonerees. Interestingly enough, Florida is the only state in the United States to incorporate a “clean hands” provision in their wrongful conviction compensation law.

New Bill Seeks to Amend the “Clean Hands” Provision

The new bill, Senate Bill 494, would have the effect of amending the clean hands provision to remove the eligibility requirement that the person not be convicted of any and all felonies, but that the exclusion would be only for those exonerees who had been previously convicted of a violent felony. In other words, an exoneree who has a felony conviction in his or her record before his or her wrongful conviction, as long as it is not a violent felony, would still be eligible for the wrongful conviction compensation.

Once it has been signed into law, it will take effect on October 1, 2017.

Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.