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Bill seeks to create new benefits for wrongful conviction victims

Several New York lawmakers are sponsoring legislation that will, if passed, increase the benefits for those wrongfully convicted of criminal offenses.

The bill -- otherwise known as Assembly Bill 3894 -- was actually first proposed early last year, but it failed to gain any significant traction in 2017. Fortunately, lawmakers re-introduced an amended version in 2018.

Details of AB 3894

Specifically, this legislation was re-committed to the Judiciary Committee on February 13, and it remains largely the same as the version introduced last year. For example, it contains all of the same proposed benefits for wrongful conviction victims, including:

  • Enrollment in a health benefit plan, which is paid for by the state
  • Education assistance, including free tuition for the victim at a state university or college
  • Reimbursement for attorney/legal fees incurred when fighting the wrongful conviction
  • All records related to the victim's conviction sealed
  • No taxes on any damages received by the victim

The purpose of this bill is to help victims of wrongful convictions rebuild their lives. In fact, a New York Committee Report specifically acknowledges the State's responsibly when it comes to helping these victims:

"Exonerees, those who have been wrongfully convicted, suffer enormous damage through no fault of their own. It is the State's responsibility to do everything possible to correct those wrongs."

While it is still far too early to know if this legislation will garner more support than it did last year, the fact that at least some lawmakers recognize the difficulties faced by wrongful conviction victims is an important step forward.

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