News 01.12.17

Editorial Urges Colorado Lawmakers to Refund Exonerees Fees and Restitution

By innocence staff

The Denver Post published an editorial Wednesday calling for Colorado legislators to pass a law to automatically refund any fees collected from exonerees upon their wrongful conviction.

Currently, under the Exoneration Act of 2013, the wrongfully convicted must prove their innocence through “clear and convincing evidence” in a separate civil suit in order to obtain a refund of fees or restitution. The problem with this law, according to the Post, is that the civil process often costs more for the defendant than the amount he or she seeks to reclaim. Also, an exoneree’s innocence cannot always be proven by “clear and convincing evidence,” which is the highest standard of proof in our civil legal system.

In the U.S. Supreme Court this week, two Coloradans who had their convictions vacated, argued that they shouldn’t have to sue for the refund of the fees they paid when they were wrongfully convicted. They also argued that the lack of a system to refund them the money is a violation of their Constitutional due process rights.

According to the Post, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman will ask legislators this session to pass a law making a refund of fees automatic upon exoneration.

“Being wrongfully convicted is a horror that nobody should have to endure, but not refunding the fees associated with a wrongful conviction simply adds insult to injury,” Innocence Project Policy Advocate Amol Sinha said. “The costs of litigation and the high standard of proof of the Exoneration Act render it an inefficient mechanism for exonerees to seek reimbursement for the fees they paid. We are pleased that Attorney General Coffman is interested in righting this wrong, and we are hopeful that the Supreme Court will provide some sense of justice for the wrongfully convicted.”

Read the op-ed here.

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