- Dec 2013
- Beware of watermelons
.Colorado, like most states, forces convicted criminals to pay court costs, fees, and restitution after they’ve been found guilty. But the question arises, “What happens when someone who’s been found guilty, has paid their dues, and then has their convictions overturned on appeal? Do they get their money back?” Not in many states, like Colorado. But all of that has changed after a landmark ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).
The state not stealing money from innocent people sounds like common sense, right? Well, unfortunately, in the land of the free, it was necessary for SCOTUS to step in and tell the greedy state that they do not have a right to steal people’s money.
According to Forbes, “defendants, Shannon Nelson and Louis Madden, were convicted for sexual offenses and ordered to pay thousands of dollars in court costs, fees and restitution. Between her conviction and later acquittal, the state withheld $702 from Nelson’s inmate account, while Madden paid Colorado $1,977 after his conviction. When their convictions were overturned, Nelson and Madden demanded their money back.”
Colorado refused, even after the plaintiffs won in a state-level appellate court. The state, instead, insisted that if they wanted their money back, they’d have to file a claim under the Exoneration Act, forcing the defendants to once again prove their innocence to retrieve their funds. The plaintiffs appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, who sided with the citizens in a 7-1 ruling, declaring Colorado’s law unconstitutional.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion for the court declaring “the Exoneration Act’s scheme does not comport with the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process.”
Ginsburg wrote that Nelson and Madden are “entitled to be presumed innocent” and “should not be saddled with any proof burden” to reclaim what is already theirs. In other words, they shouldn’t have to demonstrate they’re not criminals after the court has already made such a determination. According to Forbes:
Ginsburg forcefully rejected Colorado’s argument that “[t]he presumption of innocence applies only at criminal trials,” and not to civil claims, as under the Exoneration Act: “Colorado may not presume a person, adjudged guilty of no crime, nonetheless guilty enough for monetary exactions.”
The decision, on its surface, may not seem like much but holds promise for putting an end to the much criticized practice of local law enforcement agencies around the country who engage in civil asset forfeiture.
Read more at Victory! Supreme Court Rules States Cannot Steal Money From The Innocent