Wrongful Convictions Have Cost Texans MillionsPublished: Aug 15, 2016 in Criminal Defense
Texans who were wrongfully convicted may have the right to monetary settlements from the state. While it’s never the intention of the law and prosecutors to wrongfully convict someone of a crime, it’s the unfortunate truth that innocent people are sometimes found guilty and sent to prison. Our system allows for these individuals to seek justice on appeal, particularly when new evidence is available. Some individuals are able to prove they were wrongfully convicted and a judge or court will declare them to be “actually innocent.”
Compensation for Those Wrongfully Imprisoned
Under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Title 5, Section 103, any person who has served all or some part of his or her sentence and is found innocent of the crime for which he or she was sentenced is entitled to compensation and group health benefit plan coverage through the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Individuals are entitled to $80,000 for each year they served in prison, except for years where they were concurrently serving time for another crime in which they were found guilty and not later exonerated. If someone was released on parole or had to register as a sex offender after imprisonment, he or she is entitled to $25,000 for each year of parole or registration.
Exonerees also become entitled to an annuity payment. This monthly sum is calculated by the amount of the lump sum, with the addition of 5 percent compound interest, divided by the length of time they are expected to live. These payments continue until a person dies or they are convicted of a felony.
Exonerees Paid More than $93 Million
The Texas Tribune recently reported the state has paid 101 individuals $93.6 million in the past 25 years. This figure includes $69.1 million in lump sums and $24.5 million in monthly annuity payments. About one-third of the exonerees (34 people) received up to $100,000 in a lump sum, and about one-third (33 people) were entitled to between $1 million and $2.5 million as a lump sum. Rickey Daley Wyatt received the highest amount with a lump sum of $2.4 million.
Annuity payments range from less than $1,000 to more than $14,000. Forty people receive less than $4,000 per month, 44 receive between $4,000 and $14,000, and three people receive more than $14,000 every month.
Relief May Not Be Subject to Federal Tax
President Barack Obama signed into law the Wrongful Convictions Tax Relief Act in 2015. Under this new law, former prisoners who win awards for time suffered behind bars are not taxed. The exclusion from federal taxes counts for civil damages, restitution, and other monetary awards received for wrongful imprisonment.
Before this law, there was a great deal of confusion regarding whether or not exoneree’s awards were taxable, and it often depended on the type of recovery. Some individuals were surprised by large tax bills that they were then unable to pay because they’d spent a large portion of their lump sum payments.
Contact a Houston Criminal Defense Attorney
Ned Barnett has more than 30 years of experience, first working as a prosecutor, then as a criminal defense attorney. He’s also a certified criminal lawyer by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He understands how the law works and can help you fight a wrongful conviction.
If you’ve been wrongfully convicted, call the experienced lawyers at the Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767 for a free consultation regarding your situation.