Think only guilty people are in prison? Nope, not by a long shot. In fact, wrongful convictions occur all the time for a variety of reasons, including faulty evidence, eyewitness misidentifications and even official misconduct by police. This problem is so pervasive that one NYC politician has even called for the state to create a special commission to investigate why wrongful convictions occur and who is to blame.
One of the most tragic aspects of wrongful convictions is that an individual may spend years behind bars for a crime they did not commit, while the actual perpetrator remains free to victimize others. In some cases, a wrongful conviction victim will spend years — or even decades — in prison before they are eventually set free.
So just how long do victims of wrongful convictions remain in jail? Well, according to The National Registry of Exonerations, there have been 23 people exonerated of criminal offenses in New York since the beginning of 2016, and these individuals spent nearly 14 years, on average, in jail before their exonerations. One even served more than 50 years before being released.
Do wrongful conviction victims have legal options?
As we have discussed several times on this blog, there are legal options available under New York law for victims of wrongful convictions. For instance, they can seek damages from the state under Section 8-b of the New York Claims Act.
There have been many proposed changes to this law in recent years — including one that would entitle victims to at least one million dollars for each year wrongfully behind bars — although none of these changes has passed the legislature.
However, that doesn’t mean victims cannot still obtain compensation for their time in jail. If you would like to learn more, it is best to contact an experienced attorney in order to discuss your circumstances and discover what legal options may be available.