Thursday, April 20, 2017

Supreme Court Upholds Presumption of Innocence For Defendants Acquitted On Appeal

Some Good News For A Change

Source: Institute for Justice

Yesterday, in Nelson v. Colorado, the Supreme court struck down a Colorado statute that didn’t allow people to recover funds seized through court fees, restitution,and costs assessed against them after their conviction was reversed on appeal, unless they proved their innocence in court. The case arose from a petition from Shannon Nelson, who was originally convicted of sexual assault in 2006 and forced to pay court fees and restitution, before her conviction was overturned in a 2013 retrial. When she was acquitted, she sought a refund of the money taken as a result of court fees and restitution, but was denied a refund on the basis that the trial court did not have the authority to compel the state to return the funds to her. The statute was an obvious violation of the presumption of innocence, one of the foundational principles of our criminal justice system, and the due process clause of the 14th amendment. The majority opinion, delivered by Justice Ginsburg, held that Colorado's Exoneration Act created a risk of erroneous deprivation of a defendant's property and that Colorado may not presume a person, adjudged guilty of no crime, guilty enough for monetary exactions. The dissenting opinion came from Justice Clarence who disagreed with the use of the ruling in Matthews v. Eldridge as a persuasive precedent in the case. The 7-1 decision could have future implications for civil asset forfeiture and lead to its undoing.

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