Obtaining Compensation after a Wrongful Conviction
In a recent case heard by the Texas Supreme Court (In re Colton Lester), the Court overturned an earlier judgment that kept a wrongfully convicted man from obtaining the compensation to which he was entitled. This decision is an important one that could impact hundreds of others who have been identified as wrongfully convicted and experienced similar denials.
The Case in Question
The case overturned by the Texas Supreme Court involved a man who had been convicted of online solicitation of a minor. Colton Lester was 17 and a Junior when he sent a sexually explicit test to a 14-year old girl who was a freshman at his high school. He pled guilty to charges of online solicitation - six months after the law under which he was charged was struck down.
When the man’s attorney identified the issue, an application for a writ of habeas corpus was filed and granted. While the Court of Criminal Appeals set aside the man's conviction, it also determined that, although he had been convicted of something that is not an offense, he had still pled guilty to a crime and had not been found innocent. As a result, the Court reasoned, he was not eligible to collect compensation from a state fund specifically meant to compensate people who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes.
In short, the law defines proving actual innocence as proving one’s innocence by employing new evidence. In this man's case, there was no newly acquired evidence because the charge's unconstitutionality had been determined before he pled guilty to it. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals thus found that, because he could not prove his actual innocence, he was not eligible for compensation related to his wrongful conviction.
The Supreme Court Takes a Commonsense Approach
The Texas Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals and reversed the lower decision. The Supreme Court employed the legal test of determining if the man was factually innocent at the time of conviction – which he was – and went with that. Since he had been innocent at the time, the Court found that he was eligible for compensation.
Online Solicitation Charges
If you have been charged with online solicitation of any sort, it is essential to recognize that these charges and the potential legal consequences are very serious. Bringing your most robust defense can be extremely complicated, and your future is far too important not to seek the professional legal counsel of a dedicated criminal defense attorney with extensive experience in these difficult cases.
Consult with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you face criminal charges related to online solicitation, you should obtain the legal guidance you need sooner rather than later. Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is an experienced criminal defense attorney who is committed to vigorously defending your constitutional rights and obtaining your case's most favorable resolution. Your case is important to us, so please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.