As anyone who’s been convicted of a felony knows, convictions can have long-lasting negative impacts on your life. If and when you are released from prison, that conviction is most likely going to stay on your record, making it difficult to find employment, education, and even housing.
That’s why wrongful convictions are such a problem in the United States, and Washington is no exception. If you’ve been convicted of a crime you didn’t commit, you may be wondering if there’s anything you can do to remedy your situation. Luckily, there is.
At Gilbert Law Firm, we’ve represented people who have had their rights violated by the justice system and been wrongfully arrested, imprisoned, or convicted. So we know how you can work to protect your rights, exonerate yourself, and get compensation for the losses you have suffered.
From our team of civil rights attorneys, here’s what to do if you’ve been wrongfully convicted in Washington state.
Wrongful convictions in Washington
The Innocence Project estimates that at least 20,000 people in the US prison system have been wrongfully convicted. And even that number, experts say, is probably on the low side.
There are any number of reasons why you could be wrongfully convicted:
- You were wrongly identified by a witness
- Your confession was coerced or fabricated
- The police and prosecutors were more interested in closing a case than in convicting the right person
- Officials, prosecutors, or the jury were biased against you for your race, nationality, or other identity
This last possibility is a factor in more cases than you might think. In fact, almost half of the people who have been exonerated since 1989 in the United States were Black.
2 steps to take after your wrongful conviction
So some combination of mistaken identity, false information, and/or discrimination are probably responsible for your wrongful conviction. But what do you do now?
While there is no easy path to exoneration with a 100% success rate, there are a few steps you should take as soon as possible:
- Hire an attorney: The most important step you can take is contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to appeal the court’s decision and work toward your exoneration.
- Do not accept any plea bargain without consulting your attorney: Whether they approach you before or after your conviction, it’s essential not to accept any plea bargain if you are not guilty of the crime you’re accused of. A plea bargain will mean you are pleading guilty to the crime, or possibly a lesser charge, and a conviction can affect your life for years to come. Maintaining your innocence will make it easier to exonerate yourself in the future and recover compensation for your wrongful conviction.
Obtaining compensation for a wrongful conviction
In 2013, the Washington State Legislature passed a law promising to provide compensation to people who were wrongfully convicted and subsequently exonerated.
According to RCW 4.100, any person who was convicted and imprisoned for a crime that they did not actually commit is eligible to file a claim in court and demonstrate the losses that they suffered as a result of their wrongful imprisonment.
Unfortunately, a person can only go through this process if they are not currently in prison, and have not gotten into any legal trouble since their release.
It’s not uncommon for people filing this claim to receive $50,000 in compensation for every year that they were in prison. However, you’re going to need an experienced civil rights attorney on your side to make sure you receive all the compensation you deserve.
Hire a civil rights attorney in Washington today
Whether you’re trying to prove your innocence or sue the state for your wrongful imprisonment, Gilbert Law Firm is on your side. We have dedicated our practice to representing the powerless in the face of the powerful, and we won’t rest until you’ve gotten justice.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and discuss the details of your case.