Wrongful Convictions

Jail Photo Most police offices and district attorneys dutifully fulfill their public service of keeping us safe by arresting and prosecuting those who are reasonably suspected of committing crimes that endanger the rest of us. But “rogue” officers do exist, and prosecutors sometimes prosecute the wrong people.

Wrongful Conviction

With new advances in the science of DNA evidence, more and more New Yorkers doing time for heinous crimes such as murder and rape are being released because they were wrongfully convicted. Wrongful conviction happens for many reasons. Some of the most prevalent are: Eye witness misidentification, bad forensic science, false confessions (sometimes forced), and false informants who seek more favorable treatment in exchange for testifying against an alleged perpetrator of a crime. Back when these convictions happened, DNA science was not as advanced as it is today. In many such cases, the old DNA evidence can be re-analyzed with the new science, and innocence can be proved.

New York State allows the wrongfully convicted to bring a claim against the State of New York for compensation for the time wrongfully spent in prison. This kind of lawsuit is brought by someone who was actually convicted of a crime, and did time in prison, but was later released from prison because of new evidence that tended to exonerate him.

Under New York State Court of Claims Act section 8-b, the wrongfully convicted claimant has to prove, with clear and convincing evidence, that he was innocent of all of the crimes for which he was convicted, and that "he did not by his own conduct bring about the conviction". Note that the claimant does not have to prove that the State did anything wrong.

Malicious Prosecution and False Arrest

Even if you are not convicted, the arrested or prosecuted may have a claim for malicious prosecution or false arrest. The standard for proving malicious prosecution is a tough one; you must generally prove that the criminal proceeding terminated in your favor (“not guilty”). An adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD) generally will not do. You must also prove that the prosecutor acted with “malice” in prosecuting you, that is, that he knew or should have known you were not guilty but proceeded anyway for malicious reasons. The standard for proving false arrest is that the arresting officers had no probable cause to arrest you but did so anyway. This is, among other things, a violation of your constitutional rights.

Excessive Force

Sometimes arresting officers, even though they have probable cause, might use excessive force case in executing the arrest. A law enforcement officer has the right to use reasonable force in making an arrest, and since many people physically resist arrest, this might sometimes require considerable force. But the prominence in today’s world of cell phone cameras and surveillance cameras are making it more and more possible to prove that some police officers let the rush and adrenaline of the moment take their passions to a dangerous level of force. The Rodney King case of course comes to mind. If an arrested person can prove that the force used was unreasonable under the circumstances, and that as a result he or she suffered an injury, he can sue the officer and his or her agency for excessive force.

Compensation for Wrongful Convictions, False Arrest, Malicious Prosecution or Excessive Force

Compensation for victims of wrongful conviction, false arrest, malicious prosecution or excessive force can be substantial, since our courts recognize the devastating change in life suffered by the innocent victim. The Auburn, New York injury attorneys of Michaels & Smolak handle all these types cases and provide an initial free consultation to clients who believe they have such a case. Thereafter, if Michaels & Smolak accepts the case, they represent the client on a contingency fee bases (you only pay if we win). CONTACT Michaels & Smolak if you believe you or a loved one has a wrongful conviction case.