For some Colorado residents, being accused of a crime is the first step in a series of terrible circumstances. Having to defend against criminal charges is stressful, both for the defendant and his or her family and friends. Very often, jobs are lost, relationships are ended and financial ruin takes place. For those who are eventually convicted, things degrade even further. A recent court ruling, however, aims to help make things right for those who are able to have a criminal conviction overturned.
The United States Supreme Court ruled that when a criminal conviction is overturned, the state cannot keep fines and other costs that were assessed against the defendant. The case before the court featured two defendants, one accused of child abuse and the other of assault and child prostitution. Both defendants were able to have their cases overturned on appeal. The Supreme Court found that individuals in those circumstances must be presumed innocent.
In Colorado, individuals whose convictions are overturned and who would like to obtain a refund for their fines and other costs must do so in a separate proceeding. They are required to provide clear and convincing evidence that they are innocent. That process, of course, requires even more money. The Supreme Court ruled that forcing individuals to go through yet another court process to get a refund for their expenses is a violation of their due process rights.
This change may come as a relief to some Colorado residents who would like to receive a portion of the costs associated with a wrongful conviction. However, it is safe to say that those individuals would have preferred to have never been convicted in the first place. The best way to protect one’s rights and avoid the ramifications of criminal conviction is to take an aggressive legal stance in response to criminal charges, which is why it is so important to work with a criminal defense attorney who is ready and willing to fight those battles.
Source: Forbes, “Colorado Must Return Fines To Exonerated Defendants, Supreme Court Rules“, Daniel Fisher, April 19, 2017