Wrongful Conviction Attorney
Whether you qualify for compensation under the wrongful conviction statute can be extremely complicated depending on the circumstances of your specific case. As explained below, the statute lays out the criteria you must meet in order to be eligible, however, our experienced has taught us that the State will often fight almost all of these cases to avoid paying our compensation.
Compensation for Wrongful Conviction
RCW 4.100.060 begins with much of the same language from RCW 4.100.040, the criteria a claimant must meet in order to have a valid claim. It reestablishes the checklist a claimant must meet. We've rewritten the statute into an easier checklist for you to review.
In order to obtain a judgment in his or her favor, the claimant must show by clear and convincing evidence that:
- You were convicted of one or more felonies in superior court and were sentence to prison and served all or some of that sentence
- You are not currently incarcerated for any offense
- While serving your prison sentence you were not serving a concurrent sentence for another conviction that was not your wrongful conviction. In other words, you can't get compensated for time spent in prison if you were in there anyway serving a sentence on another conviction that you were not innocent of.
- You were:
- pardoned on grounds consistent with innocence or
- Your conviction was reversed or vacated and
- the charging document dismissed on the basis of significant new exculpatory information or
- if a new trial was ordered pursuant to the presentation of significant new exculpatory information, either the claimant was found not guilty at the new trial or the claimant was not retried and the charging document dismissed;
- You did not engage in any illegal conduct alleged in the charging documents
- You did not commit or suborn perjury, or fabricate evidence to cause or bring about your conviction.
- A guilty plea to a crime the claimant did not commit, or a confession that is later determined by a court to be false, does not automatically constitute perjury or fabricated evidence under this subsection.
If you can pass the criteria stated above, you may have a valid claim for wrongful conviction. Please note that although this checklist has been condensed, in actual practice there is a lot of problems and issues that can arise in meeting all of these requirements, and even more pushback from the State when filing your claim.
The next important section goes over the possible compensation awards available to the claimant. Note that some of these awards require additional information and evidence.
If the jury or, in the case where the right to a jury is waived, the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the claimant was wrongly convicted, the court must order the state to pay the actually innocent claimant the following compensation award, as adjusted for partial years served and to account for inflation from July 28, 2013:
- Fifty thousand dollars for each year of actual confinement including time spent awaiting trial and an additional fifty thousand dollars for each year served under a sentence of death pursuant to chapter 10.95 RCW;
- Twenty-five thousand dollars for each year served on parole, community custody, or as a registered sex offender pursuant only to the felony or felonies which are grounds for the claim;
- Compensation for child support payments owed by the claimant that became due and interest on child support arrearages that accrued while the claimant was in custody on the felony or felonies that are grounds for the compensation claim. The funds must be paid on the claimant's behalf in a lump sum payment to the department of social and health services for disbursement under Title 26 RCW;
- Reimbursement for all restitution, assessments, fees, court costs, and all other sums paid by the claimant as required by pretrial orders and the judgment and sentence; and
- Attorneys' fees for successfully bringing the wrongful conviction claim calculated at ten percent of the monetary damages awarded, plus expenses. However, attorneys' fees and expenses may not exceed seventy-five thousand dollars. These fees may not be deducted from the compensation award due to the claimant and counsel is not entitled to receive additional fees from the client related to the claim. The court may not award any attorneys' fees to the claimant if the claimant fails to prove he or she was wrongly convicted.
- The compensation award may not include any punitive damages.
All compensation received by the claimant under this statute is not considered income for tax purposes.
The statute also outlines the procedures for the court to vacate or seal the claimant's conviction, thus ensuring their record is truly cleaned up. It also allows for the claimant to enter into a structured settlement with the State as well as seek assistance for counseling, mental and physical health, education programs, life skills, and other support programs to assist in their reentry into society. The overall purpose of the statute is to try to reimburse the wrongfully convicted person but also set them up for success with the rest of their life outside of prison.
Money can't give you back the time you lost but hopefully it can assist you in enjoying your future as a free man or woman. Our experienced wrongful conviction attorneys here at South Sound Law Group take great pride in helping those who have been wrongfully convicted obtain as much compensation they are eligible and most importantly making sure that their record is cleared and their innocence proclaimed for all to know.