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DNA proof of innocence required for incarceration compensation

Missouri has laws allowing for compensation for wrongfully convicted people who serve time. However, this process can be complex.

Overturning a conviction is just one component. Even if the courts reverse a conviction, compensation is not certain and depends on other factors.

DNA proof is a requirement

In Missouri, compensation inures to only a small subset of wrongfully convicted and incarcerated people. Only those exonerated by DNA testing can pursue compensation.

Missouri has a low filing rate for compensation. That DNA limitation may be part of the cause for this. Approximately 35 percent of exonerated post-incarceration cases in the state are due to DNA evidence, which means 65 percent of the wrongfully convicted and jailed would not be eligible for compensation for time wrongfully served.

Proof of actual innocence is the standard

The statute limiting compensation to the DNA-related cases refers to those who are “actually innocent.” It does not purport to compensate anyone whose overturned conviction is not based on evidence that the person was actually innocent. It specifically states that DNA testing is sufficient evidence of actual innocence, providing cause for compensation.

Other limitations of the compensation remedy

The statute clarifies further that a person fulfilling a concurrent sentence on an additional crime will not receive compensation, because the one crime received exoneration but the other did not. Presumably, this is because the person has not received wrongful jail time. There is an exception, however, if the other criminal sentence was due to a parole violation based on the exonerated criminal conviction.

If compensated under the statute, the exonerated person is unable to sue the state or agencies of the state for damages. Moreover, if the Department of Corrections appropriates an inadequate amount of money for restitution to eligible exonerated people, there will be prorated payments. However, in later years where there is sufficient appropriation, unpaid restitution can follow.

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