Reimbursement for those who have been wrongly convicted
The recent passage of Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1341, which became effective July 28, 2013, places Washington among just a few states who have instituted a policy of reim¬bursement to persons who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes who are later vindicated. It has been reported widely in the media of some instances where persons have been convicted by a jury and then later found to have been totally innocent of any criminal conduct. This usually the result of DNA tests that prove conclusively that the convicted person is not the one who committed the crime because of the increased accuracy and sensitivity of DNA tests. In Washington, the new law provides a procedure for making a claim for compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment. It is now RCW 4.98. The Attorney General’s Office has the responsibility to approve or challenge these claims for compensation. To qualify to make a claim for compensation, a claimant must show that he or she is an individual who has been convicted and imprisoned for a felony crime of which he or she is actually innocent. “Actual innocence” means the individual did not engage in any illegal conduct alleged in the charging documents. If a person is incapacitated, is a minor, or does not reside in Washington, an authorized agent may file the claim on the person’s behalf. The surviving personal representative of a deceased claimant may file a claim. All claims must be filed in the superior court where the conviction originated. The claimant must show by documentary evidence that the claimant is entitled to relief under the statute. The documentary evidence must include the judgment and sentence, the governor’s pardon, appellate opinions and proof of incarceration. The statute provides for compensation for each year of actual confinement at $50,000 and $25,000 for each year served on parole, community custody or as a registered sex offender. This is a brief overview of the statute and should not be construed as a guide for any person seeking compensation. The statute has other provisions that must be followed in order to make a claim for compensation.