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The importance of correct compensation for wrongful convictions

Some people consider wrongful convictions to be just as harmful as committing a crime because someone is experiencing an injustice at the hands of someone else. That's why in a majority of states, including here in California, an accused person has the right to seek compensation for a wrongful conviction.

We bring this up this week because of a case out of Nebraska where a man was pardoned after he was convicted of second-degree murder back in 1985. Though he was awarded $300,000 for the five years he spent in prison for a crime he did not commit, the state's highest court recently ruled that he had not received the correct amount of restitution that he deserved.

Because a mistake such as this could easily happen here in California, some of our readers might be wondering what rights they have when it comes to wrongful convictions and why getting the correct compensation is so important.

The first thing to keep in mind is that California law provides a person with the right to file a claim for compensation against the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board within two years after an acquittal or pardon. Because a wrongful conviction can cause damages to a person's finances, occupation, and their reputation, they may want to seek restitution to help remedy these damages.

If evidence shows that the accused has not committed the crime for which they were charged and convicted, and part or all of a sentence was served, then the person may be entitled to compensation equal to $100 per day for each day served. This may cover wages that were lost because the person was serving the sentence.

It's important to note though that the appropriation awarded in a wrongful conviction case is considered gross income under the Revenue and Taxation Code and must be treated as such when filing taxes.

Though restitution for a wrongful conviction in no way excuses the mistakes that led to the false imprisonment, it does at least provide compensation for the damages it may have caused. It also holds the judicial system accountable for its actions and may encourage change so that a similar wrongful conviction does happen to someone else later on.

Sources: Courthouse News Service, "Wrongly Jailed Man Not Adequately Compensated," Jeff D. Gorman, July 24, 2014

The California Legislative Information, "SB-618 Wrongful convictions," 2013-2014, Accessed July 28, 2014

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Former Criminal Prosecutor With Proven Results