Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today announced legislation that would revise current law to remove barriers and allow more people who are wrongfully convicted be able to sue the state for damages.
The “Unjust Imprisonment Act,” would extend the statue of limitations to file claims and expand grounds for dismissal of a case in Section 8-b of the state Court of Claims Act. It would also allow more eligible people who were wrongfully convicted to present a claim for damages against the state. The bill will be introduced by Assemblyman Joe Lentol, D-Brooklyn, Gannett’s Ashley Hupfl reports.
Since 1991, 27 people in the state have had their convictions reversed because of DNA evidence, the Innocence Project said. At least 10 of those people made false incriminating statements or pleaded guilty.
“Those who are wrongfully convicted and unjustly deprived of liberty must be allowed to put their lives back together again, and we have a moral obligation to help them do so,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “The legal reforms we are proposing today are critically important to not just to the futures of the people wrongfully convicted by our criminal justice system, but to our future as a just society. The Unjust Imprisonment Act will remove unjust and unnecessary burdens on those who have been imprisoned for a crime they did not commit.”
The current law says a person whose conviction is overturned may only pursue a claim if that person can show “he did not by his own conduct cause or bring about his conviction.”
The attorney general’s office said the language of the law can unfairly exclude people whose convictions are the result of a false confession, ineffective counsel and mental or psychological problems, among other reasons.
The current law also excludes cases dismissed because of a violation of the claimant’s constitutional rights and post-conviction DNA evidence that proves the claimant’s innocence.
The legislation would fix these loopholes and extend the statue of limitations from two years to three years to file a claim for damages. If the claim were dismissed, the proposed law would allow a six-month extension to the statue of limitations to allow the claimant to personally verify their claim to correct the mistake and resubmit the claim.