A measure to compensate people who have been wrongfully convicted in Washington was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jay Inslee.
The measure takes effect in late July. Washington joins 27 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government with similar laws on the books.
“This was a step forward for justice,” Inslee said after the bill signing. “We can’t return people their lost years, but we can take a step that gives them a measure of respect and dignity.”
The new law allows people who were wrongfully convicted to file a claim in superior court for damages. Someone would have to show their conviction was reversed or vacated based on significant evidence. They would get $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.
The state also would pay all child support owed while the claimant was in custody, and reimburse all court and attorneys’ fees up to $75,000. In addition, in-state college tuition waivers will be provided for the claimant and the claimant’s children.
Currently, the only option someone has is to sue, but they are required to sue on some basis other than the fact that they were wrongfully convicted.
Rep. Tina Orwall, a Democrat from Normandy Park who sponsored the bill, said that the new law shows that “the government does stand up for people when a mistake has been made.”