Have you ever been imprisoned for a crime you didn’t commit?

Do you know anyone who has been imprisoned for a crime he or she did not commit?

If your answer to either of these questions is “yes,” then the law may provide some relief against the State of Michigan, thanks to the Wrongful Imprison Compensation Act, MCL 691.1751 et seq., enacted into law on March 29, 2017.

We all know our criminal justice system is imperfect. From a historical perspective, our United States of America is a young country that undergoes frequent changes and revisions in how we treat and punish those accused, charged, and convicted of crimes.

New law to help

The new law is designed to address and remedy those innocent people who are wrongfully imprisoned. To prevail on a claim under the Wrongful Imprison Compensation Act, the following requirements must be met for an individual to get relief:

  1. conviction of one or more crimes under Michigan Law;
  2. sentencing to a term of imprisonment;
  3. serving at least part of the sentence;
  4. judgment of conviction reversed or vacated;
  5. the charges were dismissed, or on retrial, the person was found to be not guilty;
  6. new evidence demonstrates the person was not the perpetrator of a crime or crimes and was not an accessory or accomplice were a basis of the conviction;
  7. the result of the criminal case was either (a) the judgment was vacated; (b) the charges were dismissed; or (c) a finding of not guilty; or (d) gubernatorial pardon; and
  8. a complaint for relief under the Act must be filed within three years after entry of a verdict, order, or judgment that was based on the judgment of conviction reversal or judgment vacation.

What to do next

If you think you qualify for relief under the Act, then you can file a complaint with the court of claims. Be sure to attach a sworn statement of facts supporting requirements 1-8 above. You are required to provide a copy to both the Michigan Attorney General and the prosecuting attorney for where the wrongful conviction occurred.

If the court of claims rules in your favor, then you might be compensated for up $50,000 per year during the time the wrongful imprisonment occurred.  For incarceration of less than one year, this amount is pro-rated at 1/365 for each day. The amount you are compensated may be offset by expenses incurred by the state. This includes costs to feed, clothe, or provide medical services for you during your imprisonment. You also may be awarded attorney fees for bringing the complaint.

All monies awarded to you under the Act comes from the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Fund. The fund was established by the Michigan Department of Treasury to provide a source of funding for those wrongfully imprisoned.

Seek help

Before you file your complaint, it is advisable to seek the help of an attorney. An attorney can help guide you through the process and evaluate the merits of your case. It is important to remember that you have only three years to file your complaint. This starts from the time your judgment or conviction was either reversed or vacated.

A main goal of our system of justice is to provide a restorative function to those who have suffered wrongdoing. In other words – place the aggrieved party in the same position they were in prior to the wrong occurring.

Does the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act accomplish this?  Not completely, as no amount of money can address and restore the mental and physical toll a person suffers when wrongful imprisoned, or replace lost time. On the other hand, it does provide an opportunity to get some money and a small piece of mind when injustices are perpetuated by the state.