Wrongfully Incarcerated Individuals May Receive Compensation in FL
Individuals who have been wrongfully imprisoned in Florida have an opportunity to obtain financial compensation if they do not possess any prior felony convictions. Florida law allows any exonerated person who demonstrates their innocence to receive $50,000 for every year of incarceration, with a cap of $2 million.
Additionally, all previously incarcerated individuals must also undergo a 90-day waiting period before they are able to access any of the payments made to them. If they are found innocent for the crime they were wrongfully incarcerated for but their criminal record contains a prior charge, their eligibility for financial compensation may be revoked.
Cases of Wrongful Incarceration and Previous Charges in Florida
A similar case occurred in Tampa, Florida, where an 18-year-old named Robert DuBoise was wrongfully convicted of murder. DuBoise spent 37 years in prison for the crime and should have seen nearly $2 million in financial compensation for the time he spent as a prisoner. However, due to a burglary and grand theft charge that he received as a teenager, he is unable to recuperate compensation from the state.
In a similar circumstance, an individual named Bill Dillon was wrongfully incarcerated for 27 years after being convicted of murder in 1981. Although DNA tests in 2008 proved his innocence, a prior charge on his record that he received at the age of 18 for possession of a single Quaalude pill barred him from accessing the compensation he deserved for spending more than half of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Many cases of this nature exist in Florida, and lawmakers have been struggling to amend the challenges that these restrictions create for recently released individuals who were wrongfully imprisoned. Activist groups, like The Innocence Project, seek to find justice for anyone who has been wrongfully convicted in situations where a prior charge prevents financial recuperation.
Lasting Consequences of Wrongful Incarceration
Victims of wrongful incarceration who have been recently exonerated often feel that their world has been changed irrevocably. Not only does the length of time spent incarcerated change their way of thinking and behaving, but it can also impact their relationships with friends, family, and loved ones. Individuals who have been wrongfully incarcerated have been known to experience mental health symptoms that include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Panic disorder
- Mood swings
These cases of mental health complications are not isolated incidents. In “‘It Never, Ever Ends’: The Psychological Impact of Wrongful Conviction” by Leslie Scott, the author cites a study conducted in 2003 by the Life After Exoneration Program which interviewed sixty exonerees who were imprisoned for an average of twelve years. During the course of that study, researchers stated that “nearly half [of the exonerees] suffer[ed] from depression, anxiety disorder or some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
In addition to the internal conflict that exonerated prisoners face, they also endure difficulty when attempting to return to civilian life. Obtaining a job, returning to school, applying for loans, and a variety of other activities are more challenging for those who have been wrongfully imprisoned, as the time they spent incarcerated is still listed on their criminal record. This can also make it difficult for parents who have been separated from their spouse to receive legal guardianship or visitation rights to their children.
The Florida “Clean Hands” Policy
Legislation passed in 2017 that reduced the eligibility criteria for the “Clean Hands” policy which had previously existed. This legislation adjusted existing laws and only prohibits the wrongfully incarcerated individual from receiving compensatory damages if that person was previously convicted of a violent felony, or multiple non-violent felonies, prior to their wrongful conviction.
Previously, the “Clean Hands” policy dictated that exonerated individuals would not receive any compensation from the state if they had been previously convicted of any felony. This approach was often debated and only recently modified.
Contributing Factors to Wrongful Incarceration
Since the introduction of DNA testing, thousands of cases have been reopened and many individuals have been exonerated. Prior to this time, there may have been several factors that directly contributed to someone being served with wrongful incarceration, including:
- Perjury or false accusations
- Official misconduct
- False confessions
- Mistaken eyewitness accounts
- Misapplication of forensic science
- Racial profiling
Although there can never be a justifiable circumstance in which an individual is forced to serve years of imprisonment for a crime they did not commit, DNA testing has provided an opportunity for some previously convicted individuals to seek justice for their wrongful incarceration in addition to helping potential victims escape the same situation in the future.
Qualified Orlando Attorneys Can Help You Get a Second Chance
Facing a prior felony charge that bars you from receiving the compensation you deserve is a challenging and frustrating circumstance. Victims of wrongful incarceration have the right to a second chance at life, and the team of experienced attorneys at The Umansky Law Firm can help you develop a strong case, provide legal counsel, or guide you through the process of pursuing alternative forms of compensation.
To speak with a skilled Orlando attorney about your wrongful incarceration case, give us a call or reach out to us online to schedule a free consultation today.