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Recovering for Wrongful Incarceration Under New York Law

March 5, 2013

After five years of litigation, a HoganWillig client was finally compensated by the State of New York for the nearly fourteen years they were imprisoned for a crime that they did not commit. The client’s 2.7 million dollar settlement with the State of New York stemmed from a claim under Section 8b of New York’s Court of Claims Act. The client became eligible to file a claim under Section 8b after their conviction was overturned in 2007.

In New York, relief may be obtained on the basis of either a pardon granted for innocence or because a conviction was overturned for either factual innocence (the facts alleged in the indictment were not committed by the claimant) or legal innocence (the facts alleged did not constitute a felony or misdemeanor).
New York’s Court of Claims Act §8-b

The basic requirements for recovery eligibility under Section 8-b:

  1. Conviction and subsequent imprisonment for one or more felonies or misdemeanors against the state which the claimant did not commit.
  2. The claimant must establish by documentary evidence that a.) he/ she has been pardoned on the grounds of innocence; or b.) his/her judgment of conviction has been vacated or reversed and the accusatory instrument (indictment) has been dismissed.*
  3. If a new trial was ordered, the claimant was found not guilty.
  4. The claimant must show that his/her own conduct did not cause or bring about the conviction
  5. A claim must be filed within two years following pardon or dismissal

*Not all bases for vacatur, reversal, or dismissal permit recovery under Section 8-b. The client’s vacatur was based on new evidence, specifically DNA evidence. Section 8-b permits recovery for a conviction vacated on the basis of new evidence. Section 8-b DOES NOT permit recovery for convictions reversed or vacated on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel.

While the Court of Claims Act §8-b provides a means of recovery against the state in the New York Court of Claims, there are other methods of recovery. For example, an individual who has been wrongfully incarcerated and later exonerated can seek damages from other parties in federal court under the Civil Rights Act.