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Only 17 jurisdictions have laws providing monetary compensation to the wrongfully convicted. Of these, the amount of compensation varies widely, from a maximum of $5,000 under federal law, to an unlimited cap in New York and West Virginia. Here's a state-by-state chart of the existing laws and the number of DNA-exonerated men in each state, plus information on pending state and federal compensation legislation.

» U.S. Law

Under existing federal law, a wrongfully imprisoned individual can receive a maximum of $5,000, total, in compensation after exoneration, no matter how many years they spent unjustly incarcerated. (28 U.S.C. § 2513).

There is legislation pending, however, that would increase the amount of compensation available. First introduced in 2000 by Reps. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) and William Delahunt (D-Mass.) the Innocence Protection Act (IPA), a criminal justice bill aimed at reducing the risk that innocent persons may be executed, would increase the compensation for wrongful imprisonment to $50,000 per year of incarceration, $100,000 per year if the inmate received a death sentence. In addition, IPA would afford greater access to DNA testing for convicted offenders and help states improve the quality of representation for defendants in capital cases.

IPA received strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2002. For more information on the legislation and contact information for the lead sponsors of the bill, see the Justice Project website.

» State Laws

Sixteen states have laws providing compensation for wrongful convictions; as of April 2003, four have proposed statutes in various stages of legislative review. All require some proof of "actual innocence," such as DNA test results; many have other restrictions such as requiring a pardon from the governor or prohibiting compensation to an exonerated individual who initially entered a guilty plea.

 

States providing statutory compensation for wrongful convictions

DNA-exonerated convicts (as of April 2003)

Alabama

Yes. Minimum compensation $50,000 for each year of incarceration.

Al Act # 2001 659

2

Alaska

No

0

Arizona

No

2

Arkansas

No

0

California

Yes. Maximum compensation $100 per day of incarceration.

California Penal Code §4900-4906

6

Colorado

No

0

Connecticut

No

1

Delaware

No

0

District of Columbia

Yes. No cap on compensation, but no punitive damages alllowed.

D.C. Code Ann. §2-421(2002)

1

Florida

No

2

Georgia

No

3

Hawaii

No

0

Idaho

No

1

Illinois

Yes. Maximum compensation: $15,000 for up to five years incarcerated; $30,000 for 6-14 years; $35,000 for more than 14 years (with annual cost of living increase).

705 ILCS 505/8

20

Indiana

No

4

Iowa

Yes. Attorney's fees, $50 per day of incarceration, and lost wages up to $25,000/year.

Iowa Code Ann §663A.1

0

Kansas

No

2

Kentucky

No. However, compensation legislation is currently before both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees.

SB 21 (G. Neal, Sponsor); HB 525 (J. Crenshaw, P. Clark, R. Meeks, Sponsors)

1

Louisiana

No. However, legislation that would provide $25,000 per year of incarceration plus lost wages and attorney's fees is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 520 (C. Jones, Sponsor)

2

Maine

Yes. Maximum compensation $300,000; no punitive damages allowed.

14 Me. Stat. Ann. §§8241-8244

0

Maryland

Yes. No cap on compensation amount, defined as "actual damages sustained" by the wrongfully imprisoned. Compensation must come from the state's emergency fund, or money set aside by the governor in the annual state budget.

Md. State Fin. & Proc. § 10-501

3

Massachusetts

No. However, compensation legislation is currently before the Joint Committee on Public Safety.

HB 2506 (P. Jehlen, Sponsor)

6

Michigan

No

1

Minnesota

No

1

Mississippi

No

0

Missouri

No. However, compensation legislation is currently before the Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee. No hearing date is set.

HB 732, (B. Dixon, Sponsor)

3

Montana

No

2

Nebraska

No

0

Nevada

No

0

New Hampshire

Yes. Maximum compensation $20,000.

N.H. Stat. Ann §541-B:14

0

New Jersey

Yes. Compensation capped at twice the amount the wrongfully imprisoned earned the year before incarceration, or $20,000, whichever is greater, plus attorney's fees.

N.J. Stat. Ann. § 52:4C1-5

3

New Mexico

No

0

New York

Yes. No limit on monetary compensation.

N.Y. Court of Claims Act §8b

13

N. Carolina

Yes. $20,000 per year of incarceration, total not to exceed $500,000.

N.C. Gen. Stat. §148-82 to 148-84

2

N. Dakota

No

0

Ohio

Yes. $40,330 per year of incaceration, plus lost wages and attorney's fees.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §2743.48

4

Oklahoma

No. However, compensation legislation was introduced to the House in February, 2003.

HB 1406 (Toure, Sponsor)

7

Oregon

No

0

Pennsylvania

No

5

Rhode Island

No

0

S. Carolina

No

1

S. Dakota

No

0

Tennessee

Yes. Amount or type of compensation not specified. (Court of Claims "shall hear claims for compensation by persons wrongfully imprisoned and granted an exoneration or unconditional pardon due to innocence.")

Tenn. Code Ann. §§9-8-108(a)(7)

1

Texas

Yes. $25,000 per year of incarceration, to a maximum total of $500,000, plus one year of counseling.

Tex. Stat. Ann. §§103.001-103.002; 103.051-103.052

13

Utah

No

0

Vermont

No

0

Virginia

No

7

Washington

No

0

West Virginia

Yes. Compensation limited to what the court determines will "fairly and reasonably compensate" the exonerated.

W. Va. Code §14-2-13a

6

Wisconsin

Yes. The state claims board will award "the amount which will equitably compensate the petitioner," without exceeding $25,000 total or a rate of compensation greater than $5,000 per year for the imprisonment. The board can apply to the legislature for additional funds, if they find it necessary to equitably compensate.

Wis. Stat. §775.05

2

Wyoming

No

0

For more information on laws pertaining to wrongful convictions and DNA testing, see the online databases provided by The Innocence Project and The Justice Project as per Innocence Project web site

 

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