OLR Bill Analysis
AN ACT CONCERNING COMPENSATION FOR WRONGFUL INCARCERATION.
This bill makes a number of changes to procedures and allowable awards for wrongful incarceration claims presented to the claims commissioner. It:
1. expands the eligibility criteria for wrongful incarceration compensation by allowing claims in cases vacated or reversed on grounds of government negligence or misconduct;
2. prescribes specific evidence a claimant must present at a wrongful incarceration hearing before the claims commissioner, such as whether he or she was under a death sentence or spent time as a registered sex offender;
3. prescribes a new method the commissioner must use in determining the compensation amount, providing for an amount per year of incarceration indexed to the state median household income adjusted for inflation and prorated for partial years served in prison;
4. gives the commissioner discretion to increase or decrease the award amount by 25% after considering certain relevant factors;
5. requires the General Assembly to review any award that exceeds $20,000 or for which a claimant requests review; and
6. prohibits a compensated claimant from pursuing, under state law or in equity, any further action or remedy that arises out of the claimant's wrongful conviction and incarceration, against the state or any of its officers, agents, employees, or officials.
The law, unchanged by the bill, allows the commissioner to also award payment for reintegration services, such as employment training, counseling, and tuition and fees at state colleges and universities.
EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage
WRONGFUL INCARCERATION COMPENSATION
Eligibility for Compensation
By law, a person (1) wrongly convicted by the state of one or more crimes, of which he or she was innocent; (2) who has served time for the crime or crimes; and (3) whose conviction was vacated or reversed on grounds of innocence or a ground consistent with innocence may be eligible for wrongful incarceration compensation.
The bill expands the eligibility criteria, by allowing compensation when the ground for dismissal is government negligence or misconduct. It also specifies that any dismissal must have been made by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Hearing Before the Claims Commissioner
By law, a person who meets the eligibility criteria may file a claim against the state for compensation. Such a person must file the claim with the claims commissioner and prove his or her eligibility by a preponderance of the evidence.
Current law requires the claimant to also present evidence of the damages he or she suffered, such as claims for physical and mental pain and suffering; attorney's fees and other expenses; and claims for loss of liberty, enjoyment of life, earnings, earning capacity, familial relationships, or reputation. The bill, instead, requires the claimant to present evidence of:
1. his or her age, income, vocational training, and level of education at the time of conviction;
2. loss of familial relationships;
3. damage to reputation;
4. the severity of the crime for which he or she was convicted and whether he or she was under a death sentence;
5. whether he or she was required to register as a sex offender and the length of time spent as a registered sex offender; and
6. any other damages suffered that arose from or related to the arrest, prosecution, conviction, and incarceration.
Determining Compensation Amount
Under existing law, if the commissioner determines that a claimant is eligible for compensation, he must order immediate payment to the claimant for an amount he determines after assessing certain relevant factors. The bill prescribes a new method the commissioner must use in determining the compensation amount, and it requires the General Assembly to review any award that exceeds $20,000 or for which the claimant requests a review.
Compensation Method. The bill requires the commissioner to award a claimant, for each year he or she was wrongfully incarcerated, an amount based on the median household income for the state, as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, adjusted for inflation using the consumer price index for urban consumers. Under the bill, this amount must be prorated for any partial year served in incarceration.
The bill gives the commissioner the discretion to increase or decrease the award amount by 25% based on an assessment of relevant factors, including any of the evidence listed above that the claimant presented at the hearing.
Under current law, the commissioner has discretion in determining the award amount but must consider relevant factors such as (1) any evidence of damages suffered that the claimant presented at the hearing and (2) whether any negligence or misconduct by an officer, agent, employee, or official of the state or any of its political subdivisions contributed to the person's arrest, prosecution, conviction, or incarceration.
Legislative Review of Compensation. Under the bill, the General Assembly must review a compensation award if the claimant makes such a request or the award exceeds $20,000. The General Assembly must review any such award and the claim from which it arose within 45 days after receiving it and may (1) deny the claim, (2) confirm the award, or (3) modify the award to any amount it deems just and reasonable. If it takes no action on the award or the claim, the commissioner's determination is deemed confirmed.
Other Actions or Remedies
The bill prohibits a compensated claimant from pursuing, under state law or in equity, any further action or remedy against the state or any of its officers, agents, employees, or officials, arising from the wrongful conviction and incarceration. Current law does not prohibit a compensated claimant from pursuing such further action or remedy.
The bill allows a compensated claimant to pursue such further action or remedy arising out of the wrongful conviction and incarceration (e.g., against a political subdivision of the state).
sSB 458, reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee, requires the chief court administrator to designate one or more judge trial referees who can be available to the claims commissioner to hear and determine claims against the state. It also requires the claims commissioner to report to the Judiciary Committee on (1) the status of claims that were filed before December 2, 2014 and have not been disposed of and (2) any reforms undertaken to promote the simple, expeditious, and economical processing of claims.
Joint Favorable Substitute