Bill Text: NJ S1765 | 2018-2019 | Regular Session | Introduced


Bill Title: Expands categories of individuals who may bring a claim under wrongful imprisonment statute.

Spectrum: Bipartisan Bill

Status: (Introduced) 2018-02-05 - Introduced in the Senate, Referred to Senate Judiciary Committee [S1765 Detail]

Download: New_Jersey-2018-S1765-Introduced.html

SENATE, No. 1765

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

218th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED FEBRUARY 5, 2018

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  LORETTA WEINBERG

District 37 (Bergen)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Expands categories of individuals who may bring a claim under wrongful imprisonment statute.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning wrongful imprisonment and amending P.L.1997, c.227, P.L.2013, c.171 and P.L.1967.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    Section 1 of P.L.1997, c.227 (C.52:4C-1) is amended to read as follows:

     1.    The Legislature finds and declares that innocent persons who have been convicted of crimes and subsequently imprisoned or convicted of a crime and subsequently committed as a "sexually violent predator" in accordance with the provisions of P.L.1998, c.71 (C.30:4-27.24 et al.) have been frustrated in seeking legal redress and that such persons should have an available avenue of redress to seek compensation for damages. The Legislature intends by enactment of the provisions of this act that those innocent persons who can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that they were mistakenly convicted and imprisoned or mistakenly convicted of a crime and subsequently committed as a "sexually violent predator" in accordance with the provisions of P.L.1998, c.71 (C.30:4-27.24 et al.) be able to recover damages against the State.

     2.    In light of the substantial burden of proof that must be carried by such persons, it is the intent of the Legislature that the court, in exercising its discretion as permitted by law regarding the weight and admissibility of evidence submitted pursuant to this section, may, in the interest of justice, give due consideration to difficulties of proof caused by the passage of time, the death or unavailability of witnesses, the destruction of evidence or other factors not caused by such persons or those acting on their behalf.

(cf: P.L.2013, c.171, s.1)

 

     2.    Section 2 of P.L.1997, c.227 (C.52-4C-2) is amended to read as follows:

     2.    a.  Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, any person convicted and subsequently imprisoned or convicted of a crime and subsequently civilly committed as a "sexually violent predator" in accordance with the provisions of P.L.1998, c.71 (C.30:4-27.24 et al.) for one or more crimes which he did not commit may, under the conditions hereinafter provided, bring a suit for damages in Superior Court against the Department of the Treasury.

     b.    Any award of damages to such person in an action against the State or any political subdivision thereof or against any employee of the State or any political subdivision thereof with respect to the same subject matter shall be offset by any award of damages awarded under this act.

(cf: P.L.2013, c.171, s.2)

 

     3.    Section 3 of P.L.1997, c.227 (C.52:4C-3) is amended to read as follows:

     3.    The person (hereinafter titled, "the claimant") shall establish the following by clear and convincing evidence:

     a.     That he was convicted of a crime and subsequently sentenced to a term of imprisonment or convicted of a crime and subsequently civilly committed as a "sexually violent predator" in accordance with the provisions of P.L.1998, c.71 (C.30:4-27.24 et al.), served all or any part of his sentence; and

     b.    He did not commit the crime for which he was convicted; and

     c.     He did not commit or suborn perjury, fabricate evidence, or by his own conduct cause or bring about his conviction. Neither a confession or admission later found to be false nor a guilty plea shall constitute committing or suborning perjury, fabricating evidence, or causing or bringing about his conviction under this subsection[;and

     d.    He did not plead guilty to the crime for which he was convicted].

(cf: P.L.2013, c.171, s.3)

 

     4.    Section 4 of P.L.1997, c.227 (C.52:4C-4) is amended to read as follows:

     4.    The suit, accompanied by a statement of the facts concerning the claim for damages, verified in the manner provided for the verification of complaints in civil actions, shall be brought by the claimant within a period of two years after his conviction is vacated or dismissed, his release from imprisonment, his release from State supervision including parole, probation, civil commitment as a "sexually violent predator" in accordance with the provisions of P.L.1998, c.71 (C.30:4-27.24 et al.), sex offender registration or after the grant of a pardon to him whichever is later; [provided, however, that any eligible claimant released or pardoned during the five-year period prior to May 2, 1996 shall have two years from the effective date of this act to file a suit] provided, however, that any eligible claimant whose conviction is vacated or dismissed, is released from imprisonment, State supervision including parole, probation, civil commitment as a "sexually violent predator" in accordance with the provisions of P.L.1998, c.71 (C.30:4-27.24 et al.), sex offender registration or pardoned on or after December 27, 2013 and who has not previously been awarded damages under section 3 of P.L.1997, c.227 (C.52:4C-3) or section 6 of P.L.2013, c.171 (C.52:4C-7) shall have two years from the effective date of P.L.     , c.     (C.         ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) to bring an action for damages.

(cf: P.L.1997, c.227, s.4).

 

     5.    Section 5 of P.L.1997, c.227 (C. 52:4C-5) is amended to read as follows:

     5.    a.  (1)  Damages awarded under [this act] P.L.1997, c.227 (C.52:4C-1 et al.) and section 6 of P.L.2013, c.171 (C.52:4C-7)  shall [not exceed the greater of] include :

     (a)   twice the amount of the claimant's income in the year prior to his incarceration or civil commitment as a "sexually violent predator" in accordance with the provisions of P.L.1998, c.71 (C.30:4-27.24 et al.); or

     (b)   $50,000 for each year of incarceration or civil commitment, whichever is greater, and

     (c)   $25,000 for each year served under State supervision, including parole, probation, or as a registered sex offender after a period of incarceration.

     (2)   In the event that damages exceed $1 million, the court may order that the award be paid as an annuity with a payout over a maximum period of 20 years. The court shall consider the best interests of the claimant in making such determination.

      b.   In addition to the damages awarded pursuant to subsection a., the claimant shall be entitled to receive reasonable attorney fees and costs related to the litigation. A claimant may also be awarded other non-monetary relief as sought in the complaint including, but not limited to vocational training, tuition assistance, counseling, housing assistance, and health insurance coverage as appropriate.

      c.    Damages awarded under this act shall not be subject to treatment as gross income to the claimant under the provisions of the "New Jersey Gross Income Tax Act," N.J.S.54A:1-1 et seq.

(cf: P.L.2013, c.171, s.4)

 

     6.    Section 6 of P.L.2013, c.171 (C.52:4C-7) is amended to read as follows:

     6.    a.  The provisions of [this amendatory and supplementary act (P.L.2013, c.171)] P.L.1997, c.227 (C.52:4C-1 et al.) and P.L.2013, c.171 shall apply to any claimant released from imprisonment, or granted a pardon on or after the effective date of [this act] P.L.2013, c.171.

     b.    The provisions of P.L.   , c.    (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) shall apply to any claimant whose conviction was vacated or dismissed or who was released from imprisonment, parole, probation, civil commitment as a "sexually violent predator" in accordance with the provisions of P.L.1998, c.71 (C.30:4-27.24 et al.) or removed from the sex offender registry, or granted a pardon on or after December 27, 2013 and who has not previously been awarded damages under section 3 of P.L.1997, c.227 (C.52:4C-3) or section 6 of P.L.2013, c.171 (C.52:4C-7).  Such claimant shall have two years from the effective date of P.L.    c.    (C.         ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) to bring an action for damages.

     c.     Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law to the contrary, a person who was previously ineligible to bring a civil action for damages under section 3 of P.L.1997, c.227 (C.52:4C-3) or P.L.2013, c.171 on grounds that the person pled guilty to the crime for which he was convicted shall have two years from the effective date of P.L.    , c.      (C.         ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) to bring a civil action for damages.

(cf: P.L. 2013, c.171, s.6)

 

     7.    Section 17 of P.L.1967, c.43 (C.2A:158A-17) is amended to read as follows:

     17.  a.  The reasonable value of the services rendered to a defendant pursuant to P.L.1967, c.43 (C.2A:158A-1 et seq.) may in all cases be a lien on any and all property to which the defendant shall have or acquire an interest. The Public Defender shall effectuate such lien whenever the reasonable value of the services rendered to a defendant appears to exceed $150.00 and may effectuate such lien where the reasonable value of those services appears to be less than $150.00.

     To effectuate such a lien, the Public Defender shall file a notice setting forth the services rendered to the defendant and the reasonable value thereof with the Clerk of the Superior Court. The filing of said notice with the Clerk of the Superior Court shall from the date thereof constitute a lien on said property for a period of 10 years, unless sooner discharged and except for such time limitations shall have the force and effect of a Judgment at Law. Within 10 days of the filing of the Notice of Lien, the Public Defender shall send by certified mail, or serve personally, a copy of such notice with a statement of the date of the filing thereof to or upon the defendant at his last known address. If the Public Defender shall fail to give notice, the lien shall be void.

     b.    In any case where the defendant is awarded damages pursuant to P.L.1997, c.227 (C.52:4C-1 et seq.) or section 6 of P.L.2013, c.171 (C.52:4C-7) on grounds that the defendant did not commit the crime for which he was convicted and imprisoned,  the Public Defender shall discharge any lien for services rendered concerning that crime.

(cf: P.L.2013, c.171, s.5)

 

     8.    This act shall take effect immediately.

STATEMENT

 

     This bill expands the categories of individuals who may bring a claim under the wrongful imprisonment statute, P.L.1997, c.227 (C.52:4C-1 et. seq.). The bill also provides a two-year window during which persons who were ineligible to bring a civil action for wrongful imprisonment may bring an action for damages.

     Currently, any person who has been convicted and subsequently imprisoned for a crime which he did not commit and for which he did not plead guilty may bring a civil action for damages against the Department of Treasury.  This bill would allow a person who was wrongfully convicted of a crime and subsequently wrongfully civilly committed as a "sexually violent predator" in accordance with the provisions of P.L.1998, c.71 (C.30:4-27.24 et al.) to also bring an action for wrongful imprisonment. In addition, any person who entered a guilty plea and was subsequently imprisoned could also bring an action. 

     Statute of Limitations

     The bill also clarifies the time frame within which an action may be brought.  The bill provides that a person may bring a civil action within two years after his conviction is vacated or dismissed, or his release from prison, State supervision including parole, probation, civil commitment, sexual offender registration, or after he has been pardoned, whichever is later. In addition, it provides that any person who has had his conviction vacated, dismissed, or is released from imprisonment, State supervision including parole, probation, civil commitment as a "sexually violent predator" in accordance with the provisions of P.L.1998, c.71 (C.30:4-27.24 et al.), sex offender registration or pardoned on or after December 27, 2013 would have two years from the effective date of this bill to file a suit. 

Damages

     In 2013 the Legislature increased the statutory damages amounts awarded in wrongful imprisonment civil actions pursuant to P.L.2013, c.171. Currently, damages cannot exceed twice the amount of the claimant's income in the year prior to the claimant's incarceration or $50,000 for each year of incarceration, whichever is greater. (The 2013 amendment increased the amount from $20,000 to $50,000). 

     The bill does not change this measurement between the greater of income in the year prior to the claimant's incarceration or the total per year amount for each year of incarceration. Instead it adds time spent in civil commitment as a "sexually violent predator." The bill also expands the provisions of the statute to allow for an additional recovery of $25,000 for each year served on State supervision, including parole, probation or as a registered sex offender.

     Therefore, under the bill damages include (1) twice the amount of the claimant's income in the year prior to his incarceration or civil commitment as a "sexually violent predator"; or (2) $50,000 for each year of incarceration or civil commitment, whichever is greater, and (3) $25,000 for each year served on parole, on probation, or as a registered sex offender after a period of incarceration.  In the event that damages exceed $1 million the court could order that the award be paid in an annuity with a payout over a maximum period of 20 years.

Applicability Provision

     Since the amount of recovery was increased in 2013 by section 6 of P.L.2013, c.171 and applied to a claimant released from imprisonment or granted a pardon on or after the effective date of the 2013 enactment, the bill provides a tiered applicability provision to clarify the damages provision.

     The provisions of P.L.1997, c.227 (C.52:4C-1 et al.) and P.L.2013, c.171 would apply to any claimant released from imprisonment, or granted a pardon on or after the effective date of P.L.2013, c.171 which is December 27, 2013.

     The provisions of this bill would apply to any claimant whose conviction was vacated or dismissed, or who was released from imprisonment, parole, probation, civil commitment as a "sexually violent predator" or removed from the sex offender registry, or granted a pardon on or after December 27, 2013, the effective date of P.L.2013, c.171, and who has not previously been awarded damages.  Such a claimant would have two years from the effective date of this bill to bring an action for damages.

     And finally, a person who was previously ineligible to bring a civil action for damages under section 3 of P.L.1997, c.227 (C.52:4C-3) or section 6 of P.L.2013, c.171 on grounds that the person pled guilty to the crime for which he was convicted would have two years from the effective date of the bill to bring a civil action for damages.

Public Defender- Lien on Property of Defendant

     The bill would also amend section 17 of P.L.1967, c.43 (C.2A:158A-17) to add the cross reference to section 6 of P.L.2013, c.171 (C.52:4C-7). This section was amended by the 2013 enactment to clarify that the public defender would discharge any lien for services rendered concerning a crime where the defendant is awarded damages pursuant to the wrong imprisonment statute.

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