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Florida's wrongful conviction law's unjust loophole

Four years ago, the Florida legislature passed a law designed to help those who had been wrongfully convicted of criminal charges. Though attorneys skilled in criminal defense law can often prevent wrongful convictions, the system is not perfect. The wrongful conviction compensation law was designed to right these wrongs in some small way.

Unfortunately, only three individuals have received compensation under the law since it was passed. At a rate of less than one individual a year, the law is being vastly under utilized. Even though wrongful convictions are rare, they are certainly not that rare.

However, experts predict that the $3.2 million which has been paid out under the law is a dollar amount which is unlikely to rise in the near future. Why? Due to a provision referred to as the "clean hands" provision.

Essentially, any individual who has been convicted of a crime previous to that which he has been wrongfully convicted of may not collect compensation under the law. If an individual has previously committed a crime, he or she is not entitled to restitution for wrongful conviction.

The executive director of Florida's Innocence Project recently protested that "What happened to you before your wrongful conviction has no relation to whether the state owes you recompense for wrongfully incarcerating you." The clean hands provision is undoubtedly unjust, but it is the law. As a result, justice will best be served if the law is amended. Until that time, innocent individuals throughout Florida may be locked away with no hope of restitution for their time served once they are freed.

Source: Bradenton Herald, "Three in Florida compensated under wrongful conviction law," Sep. 19, 2012

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