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Wrongful conviction compensation law found unconstitutional

The wrongfully convicted have a tremendously difficult time reintegrating into society.

Aside from the prejudices they face from some people who will always believe that they are guilty or escaped sentence on a technicality (no matter what the facts), they also have to face starting their lives over with virtually nothing and few resources.

Unless, of course, the state is willing to pay the wrongfully convicted for their time unfairly spent behind bars. In Minnesota, that meant you had to have been declared innocent or the prosecution had to drop all charges against you. Alternately, you had to belong to a distinct minority group of people -- those whose cases were eventually reversed or vacated and then additionally dismissed by prosecutors.

In other words, although the state officially allowed the wrongfully convicted to seek $50,000-$100,000 for every year of wrongful incarceration, the prosecutor's office held the keys to that coffer of money for those whose convictions were overturned by a higher court.

Now, the state's highest court has ruled that part of the compensation law unconstitutional based on the fact that it was a violation of the 14th Amendment's protection clause requiring equal treatment to all classes of people.

They also agreed that the law, as written, required prosecutors to dismiss a charge that had ceased to legally exist in order for someone whose conviction was reversed to collect payment.

Unfortunately, the court then removed the entire section of the law -- instead of just the language requiring the prosecutor to act -- which means that it now totally excludes the very people that they probably meant to include. Now, anyone whose conviction was vacated or reversed cannot seek reparations at all.

Attorneys for the plaintiff involved in the case hope that they can work with the legislature or the court to remedy the issue, believing that it was an error.

Wrongful convictions do happen. If you've been wrongfully convicted, seek an attorney with experience handling appeals and cases of unlawful imprisonment.

Source: TwinCities.com, "Part of Minnesota law compensating the wrongfully convicted is found unconstitutional," Amy Forliti, Sep. 27, 2017

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