(Missed) Opportunity Costs

November 13th, 2015 by Attorney Dan Carman

Lexington Defense Attorney Wrongfully Convicted

America’s criminal justice system is riddled with flaws, and one of the most troubling examples is the high rate at which people are wrongfully convicted. Over 1,670 people have been exonerated in the United States in the last 26 years, having served an average of nine years before their convictions were overturned and they were released. In 2014 alone, the National Registry of Exonerations boasted a record number of 125 exonerations, six of which were death row inmates – the highest number of exonerations in capital cases since 2009. Almost 40 percent of those exonerated last year were cleared of criminal convictions to which they had pleaded guilty, and homicide was the most commonly exonerated crime. The main factors contributing to having a conviction overturned are official misconduct, inadequate legal defense, mistaken witness identification, false confession, perjury or false accusation, and false or misleading forensic evidence

For those innocent people who have unfairly spent years of their lives behind bars, how do you adequately offset that loss? How do you measure the loss of freedom? The toll of prison? Being deprived of family and friends? Having no income, housing or transportation upon release?

Thirty states and the federal government at least attempt to right the wrong through legislation requiring the government to financially compensate people who have been wrongfully convicted. The amounts and restrictions vary among the jurisdictions. For example, the federal government allows $50,000 for each year spent in prison and $100,000 for each year spent on death row. In contrast, Florida provides for $50,000 annually up to a maximum of $2 million, but eligibility can be denied if the exoneree was convicted of a felony either before or during the wrongful incarceration.

Kentucky is one of the remaining 20 states with no compensation statute. While exonerees retain the option of suing in state court for wrongful conviction or lobbying the legislature for a private compensation bill, reentering society is hard enough without having to chase funds. Yet, the Innocence Project reports that 40 percent of exonerated prisoners nationwide receive nothing from authorities for their time behind bars. Those who do have to wait an average of three years to receive their money, which is then often taxed as income.

Compensating wrongfully convicted people for the injustice they suffer seems like a relatively straightforward prospect. At a minimum, they should receive reimbursement for the basic tools they need for even a small chance of success once they are back in society, for things such as medical expenses, education, and job training.

If you’ve been wrongfully convicted and exonerated, an experienced criminal attorney may be able to help you get compensation. Discuss your situation with one of the attorneys at the Lexington, KY-based Carman Law Firm. As criminal defense attorneys with years of experience, we offer thorough, experienced representation. Call today at (859) 685-1055 or fill out this online contact form to find out how we can help you.