No amount of money can undo the time spent behind bars due to a wrongful conviction. However, compensation can bring emotional closure while replacing some of the income and opportunities a wrongfully imprisoned person has lost. New York State makes compensation available under the Court of Claims Act, Section 8b. Each case is evaluated based on its circumstances, and the court awards damages in an amount that it determines will fairly and reasonably compensate the individual.

If you were wrongfully convicted, the best way to find out what compensation may be available is to speak with New York City civil rights lawyers who have extensive experience with police-related civil rights cases.

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Who is eligible to file a Section 8b claim?

Section 8b of the Court of Claims Act allows compensation for those who can show, by clear and convincing evidence, that their conviction and imprisonment were wrongful.

To be eligible, an applicant must show:

  • They have been convicted and imprisoned for at least one felony or misdemeanor against the state that they did not commit.
  • Documentary evidence proves that either they have been pardoned because they are innocent or their judgment of conviction was vacated or reversed, and the indictment or other accusatory instrument has been dismissed.
  • If the court ordered a new trial, then the applicant must have been found not guilty.
  • The wrongful conviction must not have been caused by the applicant’s own conduct.
  • The application must be filed within two years of the pardon or dismissal.

The basis for the reversal of the conviction must be new evidence. So, for example, if the applicant’s conviction were vacated based on the ineffective assistance of counsel, that would not be a qualifying situation. The statute also prioritizes cases in which the applicant’s proof of innocence is DNA evidence.

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How much compensation is available for a wrongful conviction?

Each case is unique. The compensation that is awarded to a successful applicant will depend on the circumstances of their conviction and imprisonment. Length of incarceration, the egregiousness of the state’s actions, and opportunities lost while wrongly imprisoned can all play a part in the amount of compensation deemed appropriate.

Sometimes the damages that courts award are significant. Notable examples include:

  • Jabbar Collins – The state of New York paid $3 million for the 15 years that Jabbar Collins unnecessarily spent behind bars. In 1995, Collins was falsely accused and convicted of murder and sentenced to 34 years in prison. While incarcerated, he learned about legal proceedings and used his time to file records requests and do investigative work. The result was a pattern of police and prosecutorial misconduct used to fabricate a case against him.
  • Alan Newton – A New York man spent over 20 years in prison for a false conviction for a 1984 rape. His conviction was based in part on faulty eyewitness identification. Newton requested DNA testing in 1994, but the court denied his request because the biological evidence could not be located. For eleven years, personnel at the Property Clerk’s Office insisted the evidence was lost. However, in 2005, at the prompting of the Innocence Project, the District Attorney’s office directed a physical search of the evidence warehouse, and the evidence was found in the same place indicated in the file. A DNA test exonerated Newton, and he won an $18 million verdict in federal court, though an appellate court reduced the award to $12 million.

If there is a chance you may have a viable Section 8b claim, talk to a New York City civil rights lawyer to discuss the facts and receive a personalized analysis of your rights.

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False incarceration can impact every area of your life. No amount of money can erase the pain and suffering, but a damages award can restore lost income and provide the means to achieve some of the goals that may have been put on hold.

The team at Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green represents New York City residents in false arrest, police brutality, and other civil rights violations. We understand the challenges ahead and are prepared to help you meet them with our professional guidance. Call today to schedule a free consultation.