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New Proposed Laws in Florida Bring Changes to Help Prevent and Compensate for Wrongful Convictions

A wrongful conviction in a criminal case not only causes a lot of financial and emotional strain on the victim of the wrongful conviction and his/her family, but it can also cost the taxpayers a lot in the wrongful imprisonment of an innocent person. For all these reasons, it's important that the criminal justice system work hard at preventing this type of critical mistake. In the state of Florida, two new proposed laws could make it easier to prevent a wrongful conviction and also provide compensation for a larger group of innocent people who are wrongfully convicted and imprisoned.

Prevention of Wrongful Convictions

According to a study done by the Innocence Commission in 2011, three out of four people released by DNA exonerations were imprisoned due to a faulty eyewitness statement. This is common in criminal cases due to the fact that in the emotional aftermath of a crime, it may be easy for eyewitnesses to be influenced by aspects of the investigation that may sway them to remember details incorrectly. Therefore, people may be implicated in a crime for which they have no connection to at all.

State Representative Gayle Harrell wants to help prevent this type of wrongful conviction by requiring police to use officers who are unfamiliar with a crime or suspect when conducting a live or photo lineup. This will allow for an independent administrator of sorts to offer an unbiased assessment of the case, with the idea that this will help prevent some biases or influence when working with victims to identify criminals. Though this law would not be enforced by penalty for non- compliance, defense attorneys would be able to raise non-compliance of the independent review during a trial. Currently, there is no major objection from police chiefs and sheriff departments.

Compensation for Wrongful Convictions

Florida State Representative Bobby DuBose has proposed an additional bill, recently approved by the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, which would allow for compensation for wrongful convictions in cases where the innocent person may have been convicted previously of a non-violent felony, such as theft or drug possession. Currently as the law stands, wrongful conviction compensation up to $50,000/year is only awarded to those wrongfully convicted who have been proven innocent, and who have "clean hands", or who have not committed a felony of any kind in the past. This new proposed bill would not apply to anyone who has committed a violent felony. So far, only four people have benefited from wrongful conviction compensation in the state of Florida since the original law passed nine years ago.

A wrongful conviction of an innocent person creates a lot of personal and financial strain. If you have been accused of a crime of any kind, it's important to contact an experienced criminal attorney who can help ensure that proper steps are taken over the course of the investigation of your case.

References:

Vasilinda, M. (n.d.). New legislature would fight to reduce wrongful convictions. Retrieved March 29, 2017, from http://www.wjhg.com/content/news/State-working-to-reduce-number-of--417250863.html

A. (2017, March 28). Law That Allows Payment to Wrongfully Convicted Could Change. Retrieved March 29, 2017, from https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/florida/articles/2017-03-28/law-that-allows-payment-to-wrongfully-convicted-could-change

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