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States’ Compensation Laws Are All Over the Map

May 15, 2012

By Michael Bodine
Capital News Service

Twenty-seven states and Washington, D.C., have laws to compensate people who have been wrongfully convicted and incarcerated.

The statutes typically require individuals receiving compensation to adhere to certain stipulations, such as waiving future claims and staying out of trouble with the law. In most cases, claimants are ineligible if they had pleaded guilty to their crimes. Also, exonerees must file a claim within a specific period of time – usually one to two years.

In Virginia, once an individual’s conviction has been vacated, a wrongfully incarcerated person is eligible for 90 percent of the state’s per capita personal income for every year of his or her incarceration for up to 20 years. Also, the exoneree receives up to $10,000 toward tuition in the Virginia community college system.

In many states, including Alabama, Florida and North Carolina, an exonerated individual is entitled to at least $50,000 for each year he or she was incarcerated. Florida caps the compensation at $2 million; North Carolina caps it at $750,000.


In Vermont, exonerees are entitled to an amount between $30,000 and $60,000 per year incarcerated. In Louisiana, they are entitled to $25,000 per year incarcerated, up to 10 years. Wrongfully incarcerated persons from Utah are eligible to receive the average annual nonagricultural payroll wage for up to 15 years.

California, Iowa and Missouri compensate exonerees based on the number of days they were imprisoned. California pays $100 per day, while Iowa and Missouri limit the amount to $50 per day of incarceration.

In several states, the laws do not specify a maximum or minimum compensation. Instead, compensation is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Connecticut, Maryland, New York and West Virginia, as well as Washington, D.C., compensate individuals by examining their hardships, including loss of earning capacity, loss of reputation and physical pain and suffering.

Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska and Tennessee set maximum amounts for which wrongfully convicted people are eligible.

In Maine, the exonerated are eligible for up to $300,000. For exonerees in Massachusetts and Nebraska, the maximum reward is $500,000, as well as the potential for educational and emotional services. In Tennessee, the exonerees are entitled to $1 million for their incarceration.

Montana’s statute provide the wrongfully incarcerated only with educational assistance; monetary compensation isn’t mandatory.

In New Jersey, exonerated individuals are eligible for twice the amount of their income the year prior to their conviction or $20,000 per year of incarceration, whichever is greater.

In Ohio, exonerees are eligible for $40,330 per year of incarceration. In addition, they can be compensated for lost wages and attorney fees.

New Hampshire gives exonerees only $20,000 total for the entirety of the incarceration; Wisconsin awards just $25,000.

In Texas, the wrongfully convicted are eligible to receive up to $80,000 per year spent in prison, plus $25,000 per year spent on parole or as a registered sex offender. In addition, exonerees receive tuition up to 120 hours at a career center or public institution of higher education.

Illinois awards $83,350 to people who served up to five years in prison, $170,000 for those who served between five and 14 years, and $199,150 for people who served more than 14 years.

Source: The Innocence Project

Main story:

Virginia Makes Amends for Wrongful Imprisonment