Hunt & Associates P.C.

Now That We’ve Taken Your Money, Prove Why We Shouldn’t Keep It; Or, The Advantages of a Presumption of Guilt

Prison cellsSome states apparently insist that even if your criminal conviction is overturned on appeal and the charges against you are dismissed, the state should still keep any fines you’ve paid unless and until you can prove that you were actually innocent of the crime you were charged with in the first place.  In other words, they actually have a presumption of guilt that you have to overcome before the state will return the fines you paid when you were improperly convicted.  Colorado was such a state, at least until April 2017 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (7-1, opinion by Ginsberg) in Nelson v. Colorado that Colorado could not supplant the “presumption of innocence” with a “presumption of guilt” in actions to recover the fines paid by those whose criminal convictions had been overturned on appeal.

The Colorado statute in question, entitled “the Exoneration Act”, required a criminal defendant whose conviction had been reversed on appeal to prove their innocence of the charges that had been brought against them before they could obtain a refund of the fines they’d paid as part of their sentences. Read a more detailed summary here.

Of course, there’s still no compensation to the wrongly convicted claimants for their time spent in confinement or for the costs of defense, which can both be devastating.

© 5/16/2017 Lawrence B. Hunt of Hunt & Associates, P.C.  All rights reserved.


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