Recently, a case reached the Colorado Supreme Court titled People v. Nelson, which presented the problem of whether a person who has had their conviction reversed should be granted a refund of the costs, fees, and restitution that they paid while awaiting the decision from their appeal.
The Colorado Supreme Court stated that the defendant did not deserve a refund because she did not meet the requirements of the Colorado Exoneration Act.
“Conviction Reversed” Doesn’t Always Mean “Innocent”
Under the Colorado Exoneration Act, a person will not qualify for a refund if their conviction was overturned because of a legal error committed by the lower court or if there was insufficient evidence to convict them in the first place. (In Texas, the sentence is usually not enforced until the appeal process is finished in probation cases and even in cases where someone was sentenced to prison.)
Instead, Colorado Exoneration Act states that in order for a wrongfully convicted citizen to receive a refund, they must prove by clear and convincing evidence that they are actually innocent. The Colorado Supreme Court states the defendant did not prove her innocence by clear and convincing evidence, and thus they are not allowed to refund her because they must follow the Colorado Exoneration Act.
The case has made it all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where the Justices will determine whether this “clear and convincing evidence” requirement in the Colorado Exoneration Act should be overturned. Colorado remains the only state that requires a wrongfully convicted citizen to prove that their conviction was a result of a miscarriage of justice or that they are factually innocent.
My Stance on Reversed Convictions
The Law Office of Jamie Balagia believes that every wrongfully convicted citizen deserves to have every penny refunded, whether or not they can prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that they are innocent. If a court has ruled and reversed the conviction for a citizen and deemed them exonerated of the conviction, they should receive the costs, fees, and restitution that accompany a criminal conviction that was unjust from the start.
Fair is fair and if the conviction is overturned then all monies should be refunded until and unless the case is retried and a valid conviction obtained.