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New Amendments to Florida’s Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Act: Is the Money Enough?

In the last few months, the Florida Senate passed amendments to the Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Act, which provided further elucidation and clarification on the administrative process that wrongfully incarcerated persons must use in order to qualify and receive compensation from the state. The provisions took effect on July 1, 2014 and required the person wrongfully convicted to show that:

  • He or she was convicted and received the death penalty on or prior to December 31, 1979;
  • A special prosecutor appointed by the Governor investigated the charge and issued a dismissal of the charges; and
  • He or she applied for the appropriate compensation by July 1, 2016.

Wrongful Conviction Compensation Statutes

Wrongfully incarcerated persons, depending on the state, may be eligible to receive compensation for time spent wrongfully imprisoned. However, not all states provide compensation to these persons.  According to CNN’s investigation of wrongful conviction compensation statutes nationwide, Florida provides $50,000 annually up to $2 million, regardless of the number of years that the wrongfully charged person was imprisoned. The person may also receive up to 120 hours worth of tuition at a community college, state university or state college. In 24 other states, such as Georgia, Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (to name a few), there are no statutes that provide for any compensation. Some states provide only limited compensation or base compensation on expected wages.

Many states provide services such as vocational training, educational assistance, counseling, and other reintegration services. Florida is considered to have one of the more generous compensation packages for innocent persons recently released.  The federal government has recommended that states should offer at least $50,000 per year but does not require states to espouse this number.

Number of Wrongfully Incarcerated Persons Nationwide

It is unknown the number of wrongfully incarcerated persons that are currently serving or have served time in prison or sentenced to death. A study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that 1 in 25 prisoners on death row are actually innocent. This would be 4.1 percent of prisoners on death row that should be exonerated; however, this estimate is considered extremely conservative as many death row inmates are removed to life imprisonment. Exonerations within the death row population are considerably higher than in any other category of prison sentences. Death sentences constitute significantly less than 1 percent of all criminal sentences but are responsible for 12 percent of all known exonerations of wrongfully incarcerated defendants. Part of the reason that death row defendants are exonerated is due to the amount of resources devoted to death row defendants over any other crime.

Is Compensation Enough?

Laws regarding compensation to wrongfully incarcerated persons, however, may not be enough to actually compensate these men and women for the years that they have lost. In addition, no amount of compensation can help to restore the wrongfully incarcerated person’s reputation within the community or the family ties that he or she has lost. In the eyes of the community, “once a criminal, always a criminal” persists, even if the person is innocent and is ultimately exonerated.

Criminal Advocates to Help Curb Wrongful Conviction

Being wrongfully convicted of a crime is a terrible blight to our judicial system. There are many external factors that may lead to terrible imprisonment of an innocent individual. Having an experienced criminal attorney can be crucial to avoiding wrongful imprisonment. KevinJ. Kulik can provide excellent guidance and legal counsel if you or a loved one has been wrongfully charged with a crime. Please contact the law offices of Kevin J. Kulik in Fort Lauderdale for further information and consultation about the facts of your case.

 

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