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Are victims of wrongful convictions entitled to damages?

According to the Innocence Project, 32 states already have laws on the books that permit victims of wrongful convictions to seek compensation for any damages sustained due to their wrongful imprisonment.

While these laws can vary from state to state, New York's wrongful conviction recovery statute -- otherwise known as Section 8-b of the New York Court of Claims Act -- provides important legal recourse for victims of the state's criminal justice system.

However, before a victim can obtain a judgment under this statute, he or she must prove by clear and convincing evidence that:

  • He or she has been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor against the state and sentenced to time in jail, and he or she has served at least part of that sentence
  • He or she has been pardoned of the crime on the grounds of innocence, or his or her conviction was reversed or vacated (in addition to other specific details)
  • He or she did not commit the acts in the accusatory instrument (a written accusation filed with the court charging the individual), or the acts listed in the accusatory instrument are not felonies or misdemeanors against the state
  • He or she did not, by his or her own conduct, bring about or cause the conviction

Ultimately, if the court determines that a victim is entitled to a judgment, it will award him or her damages that will fairly and reasonably compensate him or her. However, victims typically only have two years following their pardon or dismissal to file a claim for damages, so they need to act fast.

Also, it is important to remember that the information above is simply a basic outline of New York's wrongful conviction recovery statute. In fact, depending on the situations, other legal options may be available for victims of wrongful convictions. This is one reason why it is so important to contact an experienced attorney right away if you want to know more about possible legal recourse following the reversal of a wrongful conviction.

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