When someone is arrested, they are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The United States Constitution guarantees our civil rights to legal counsel and a fair trial. We trust that justice will prevail, and innocent people will be found not guilty. However, what happens when the justice system fails and a person is wrongfully convicted of a crime?
What is a Certificate of Innocence?
A Certificate of Innocence states that you should never have been convicted of the crime you were accused of committing. It removes the conviction from your criminal record and can restore your civil rights.
A Certificate of Innocence may also allow you to sue the state for damages caused by the wrongful conviction. A financial award cannot undo the damage caused by being convicted of a crime you did not commit. However, it can provide the funds that you need to move on with your life after you were wrongfully convicted of a crime.
How Do I Get a Certificate of Innocence?
The Illinois Post-Conviction Hearing Act governs the process of petitioning for a Certificate of Innocence. The Act states that you can petition for the certificate if you have been convicted of a felony and sentenced to prison. The petition challenges the conviction. It is up to you to prove that you were wrongfully convicted of a crime.
Reasons for petitioning the court for a Certificate of Innocence include:
- An appeals court vacated or reversed the conviction, and the indictment was dismissed
- A new trial was ordered on appeal and you were found not guilty, or the prosecution did not retry the case
- The statute which was the base of the indictment violated the Constitution of the United States or the State of Illinois
- The court dismissed your indictment, or the court granted you an acquittal
- New evidence has come to light that proves that you were innocent of the criminal charges filed against you
When you file your petition for a Certificate of Innocence, you must certify that you are likely to succeed at trial in proving that you are innocent of the charges against you or the charges did not constitute a felony or misdemeanor.
If you want to pursue a Certificate of Innocence, you need to contact an attorney immediately. There are deadlines for filing for post-petition relief. If you miss the filing deadline, you lose your right to petition the court for a Certificate of Innocence.
Contact Our Civil Rights Attorneys for More Information
A conviction for a crime you did not commit can have long-term consequences beyond jail time, fines, and other criminal penalties. Wrongful convictions can make it difficult to find a place to live, secure a job, or continue your education. In some cases, wrongful convictions could result in the loss of civil rights. Call our law firm to discuss your conviction with one of our civil rights attorneys. We will analyze your case and give you an honest assessment of your options for seeking post-conviction relief.