We hear the stories everyday about convictions that are overturned because better evidence is discovered, or for some other reason. This happened recently in Texas in a number of cases where defendants were required to provide blood samples in connection with DWI investigations, despite there not being a warrant. It is cases like these, and a unique issue tied to these cases, that the Supreme Court will decide in this term.
When this happens, one of the questions that arises is what should happen to the fees, costs, and penalties imposed with the wrongful conviction. At first blush, it seems like the only fair thing to do is return the fees and costs unless the state is going to continue on with the appeals process, or try the case again. But that is not the standard that is used in Colorado, and the standard that is going in front of the Supreme Court.
Under Colorado law, when a person’s conviction of a crime is overturned, they are not automatically entitled to a return of their costs and fees paid. In that state, and many others, the state requires the person who had his conviction reversed to prove his innocence in a civil court before the state will return his fees and costs. This puts the standard of innocent until proven guilty on its head, and essentially puts what some people consider an unfair standard on citizens.
There are policy reasons behind why a state would require a person to prove their case in civil court. First, the standard of proof in a civil case is generally lower than in criminal court, so a person theoretically should be able to easily prove their case. But what is not discussed is the additional cost and effort that it takes to prove a case in civil court. Under these circumstances it is difficult for someone who just got out of jail and getting their life back together.
The Cases in Front of The High Court
This case involves two different people from Colorado who both had their convictions overturned, and both paid thousands of dollars in fees and court costs in the process. Their contention in front of the Supreme Court is that when the state keeps that money they violate the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. That provision prohibits the government from taking life, liberty, or property without due process of the law. Meaning they must follow established and constitutional standards to impose a fine, take property or life, or jail someone.
What This Case Could Mean for You
It is not unheard of for those convicted of DWI in Texas and elsewhere to have their convictions overturned on appeal, or through another means. Now, if the Supreme Court decides so, the state may be required to return fees and costs that were imposed during the process of an improper conviction. This could mean a boon for defendants who are wrongfully convicted of DWI and other crimes, and work as an additional check against the government in protection of citizen rights.
If you are charged with a DWI in the Dallas Area, contact us. Our team of legal experts at The Wilder DWI Defense Firm will help you understand what your legal options are, and provide you with the best defense available under the law.