Paul L. Caron

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Wrongful Convictions Tax Relief Act of 2007

Improve Remedial Laws (National Law Journal), by Vivian Berger:

The Wrongful Convictions Tax Relief Act of 2007, S. 2421, recently introduced by senators Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., would furnish certain tax benefits to exonerated prisoners without prior felony convictions. Most important, for 15 years or the number of years of incarceration (whichever is less), it would exempt them from federal income tax liability on the first $50,000 of annual income received as reparations for their imprisonment. The bill is aimed at preventing others from suffering the plight of exoneree David Pope, who ended up owing nearly a quarter of the $385,000 that Texas had awarded as recompense for the decade and a half of hard time he endured before being cleared of rape charges.

It does appear grossly unfair in these circumstances to give with one hand, then take with the other, even when giver and taker are separate government bodies. But worse, for the vast majority of inmates released from confinement on grounds of innocence taxes are the least of their worries. Few possess a right to any indemnity for their horrendous ordeal: Only 22 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government have statutes providing for compensation to the injured party.

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