A House fiscal committee heard public testimony Tuesday on a measure that would allow people who were wrongfully convicted to seek compensation from the state for the years they lost behind bars.
If passed, Washington would join 27 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government with similar laws on the books.
The measure would allow people who were wrongfully convicted to file a claim in superior court for damages against the state. The claimant must show that his or her conviction was reversed or vacated based on significant evidence of innocence, and that the claimant did not commit the crime as charged. Once a judge or jury determines the claim is valid, damages can be awarded.
Currently, the only option someone has is to sue the state, but they are required to sue on some basis other than the fact that they were wrongfully convicted, such as intentional wrongdoing or prosecutorial misconduct.
Under the bill heard by the House Appropriations Committee, compensation would be similar to the amounts paid by the federal government — a wrongly convicted person would receive $50,000 for each year of imprisonment. An additional $50,000 would be awarded for each year on death row. A person would receive $25,000 for each year on parole, community custody, or as a registered sex offender.