Prepared by the Law Office of Vincent J. Sanzone, Jr., as a public service to the People.
Under N.J.S.A. 52:4C, a defendant who was unjustly convicted and served time in prison is now entitled to recover twice his or her annual salary, or $50,000.00 per year, which ever is greater, for each year unjustly incarcerated in prison. In a lawsuit for wrongful conviction the law suit must be filed against the Department of Treasury.
However, the new law prohibits anyone from recovering any money if he or she pleas guilty to the crime in which he or she is imprisoned. This twist in the new law will in effect eliminate payments to unjustly convicted defendants, because in New Jersey many innocent defendants take pleas to avoid lengthy prison sentences if convicted after a jury trial. This is true because pleas to lesser included sentences sometimes eliminate draconian sentences and force innocent defendants to take pleas. Unlike New York, New Jersey will almost never outright dismiss a criminal case. In New Jersey prosecutors will extract some sort of plea, even if it means pleading to a disorderly person’s offense. This new law will only promote the extraction of guilty pleas from innocent defendants.
Therefore, overall the change in the law will actual limit State liability, and gives no incentive for prosecutors to help insure that innocent people are not unjustly convicted and sent to prison for crimes they have not committed. Therefore, the new law will make fewer defendants eligible for payments.
P.O. Box 261
277 North Broad Street
Elizabeth, N.J. 07207
Dated: December 31, 2013
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