HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Bipartisan legislation has been proposed in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that would create guidelines for wrongful conviction compensation.

HB 2794, sponsored by Rep. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon), would “implement a streamlined process for individuals to seek compensation when they have been incarcerated as a result of a wrongful conviction.”

A memo released by Rep. Ryan and Reo Regina G. Young (D-Philadelphia/Delaware) outlined how a wrongfully convicted individual would be able to receive compensation for time spent incarcerated or on parole.

According to the memo, an individual seeking this relief must show by a preponderance of the evidence that they:

  1. Were convicted of a felony.
  2. Were sentenced to incarceration based on the conviction and they have served all or any part of the sentence.
  3. Did not commit the crime that resulted in the conviction or there was no crime committed.
  4. Received either a pardon, that the charges were dismissed following reversal, or that they were acquitted upon retrial after the conviction was reversed or overturned.
  5. Were not convicted of any lesser included offense arising from the same transaction as the crime for which they were originally convicted.

The bill would allow for an individual to receive:

  • $100,000 for each year of imprisonment or involuntary treatment while awaiting a death sentence
  • $75,000 for each year of imprisonment or involuntary treatment for any other sentence
  • $50,000 for each year spent on parole or probation
  • Partial years served would receive a prorated payment
  • Compensation for unpaid child support payments owed and interest owed during the time served in prison
  • Reasonable attorney fees and costs
  • Reimbursement of costs, fines, fees, or surcharges
  • Reimbursement of unreimbursed restitution paid
  • Compensation for any treasonable reintegrative services and mental and physical health care costs incurred between the petitioner’s release and the date of the petitioner’s award

Any award of damages would be paid in a lump sum and would not be subject to Commonwealth taxes.

The State Court Administrator can determine the percentage increase or decrease in the cost of living. The adjustment may not exceed 3% for any year.

A six-year statute of limitations would be in place from the date of release from incarceration, involuntary treatment, or reversal of a conviction, whichever is later.

If the bill were to be passed, the Department of Human Services would create an application and procedures, as well as require determinations to be made within 14 days of receiving an application.

When an individual is wrongfully convicted and incarcerated the consequences are devastating not only to them but their families and friends. Individuals are not only deprived of their liberty, but they miss holidays, birthdays, and other important life events. They undoubtedly will suffer negative economic and professional consequences as well. Currently, over 30 states provide some type of payment or compensation to exonerated individuals. Pennsylvania should follow suit to ensure that exonerated individuals are appropriately compensated for the liberty they have been denied and given the necessary resources and services to succeed after being released from their wrongful incarceration.

Representative Francis X. Ryan and Rep. Regina G. Young

The bill, which was referred to the Committee on Judiciary on September 1, was introduced by a bipartisan group of twenty-two members of the legislature. No votes on the legislation have been scheduled at this time.