Florida Court Limits Compensation for Wrongful Convictions

A recent Supreme Court decision is widely expected to make it easier for people wrongly convicted of Florida crime to get compensation. A later ruling out of Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal, however, makes clear that there are still strict time limits on efforts to get that compensation.Defendant was charged with grand theft and uttering a forged instrument, executing a scheme to defraud a financial institution, and counterfeiting a license tag in three separate criminal cases. He eventually entered into a plea deal, under which Defendant plead no contest to the crimes. He also agreed to pay restitution to the victims of the forged instrument and scheme to defraud offenses. Defendant was sentenced to three years of probation on the scheme to defraud charge as part of the deal.

A federal court in 2009 overturned Defendant’s conviction on the scheme to defraud offense. The court held that writing a check that’s unsupported by sufficient funds doesn’t qualify as a fraudulent representation to a bank without proof of intent. So Defendant also went back to state court and asked a judge to scrap his plea deal and give Defendant back the restitution money he had paid for the scheme to defraud conviction. The trial court declined that request in 2009. Some eight years later, Defendant filed a “motion for damages” seeking the return of the restitution money. A judge said that this filing wasn’t timely.

Affirming the decision on appeal, the Fourth District said a state law allowing for the compensation of a person wrongfully convicted of a crime requires the person to file a motion for that compensation within 90 days.

Defendant cited a 2017 U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the justices said a state can’t retain funds paid to it by a defendant pursuant to invalidated convictions. The Supreme Court in Nelson v. Colorado also said a state may not require a defendant to prove his or her actual innocence in order to secure return of property.

But the Fourth District said that ruling shouldn’t be applied retroactively to Defendant’s case. It also said the decision didn’t bar filing time limits.

“First, Nelson is not the type of change in law which should be applied retroactively,” the court said. “Second, Nelson did not invalidate procedural measures required to assert a compensation claim, and the time limitation is a procedural measure.”

As a result, the Fourth District affirmed the decision denying Defendant’s request for the return of the restitution money.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a white collar or other crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced attorney. Tampa criminal defense lawyer Will Hanlon is a seasoned attorney who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (813) 228-7095 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.

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