Timothy O. McCalep

The wrongfully convicted should be compensated

People who are wrongfully convicted usually lose a good number of years due to being in prison for a crime they truly didn't commit. The Innocence Project notes that people spend an average of more than 14 years in prison by the time their innocence has been proven by post-conviction DNA tests. This is a long time to be locked away from the world.

Once these people are released, they will likely have to rely on friends and family members for support. They have no money, transportation, health insurance or ability to support themselves. A lack of job experience and education usually plague them. Moving past all of these challenges can be difficult, but it might not be impossible.

Compensation for wrongful convictions

Even though some individuals might beg to differ, the burden to help the person get back on track falls on the state. After all, the state is the entity that pushed for the conviction.

People may think that only monetary compensation is being sought in these cases. This isn't usually what is necessary. There should be some provision for providing the person a set amount of financial compensation for every year behind bars, but the needs go far beyond that.

These individuals will also need immediate help to handle the basics of existence in society. Housing, food and transportation are likely the most important. Additionally, they need to be able to get medical care, including counseling for the mental impacts of the time in prison.

Getting help with legal matters related to the wrongful conviction may also be in order. This could be everything from getting the record expunged to family law matters. Even finding legal avenues to get public benefits might be necessary. Job training or education support are also important

Tax implications of a monetary settlement

When a person gets a settlement check, taxes are likely going to be one of the first things they think about. How much of the check will go back to the government? There is a very good chance that none of it will have to be handed over for taxes. The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 includes an exclusion for monetary awards for wrongfully convicted individuals.

There are specific criteria that must be present in order to qualify under the Wrongful Incarceration Exclusion. For one, the person had to have served all or part of their prison sentence. There are other provisions that might apply, so individuals who are getting a settlement should review how the IRS tax code will impact them.

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