Policy Corner

258D MA Compensation Law

Massachusetts has a compensation statute for individuals who were convicted of crimes they did not commit, and have been subsequently exonerated. It is intended to provide monetary relief to innocent people who have been wrongfully incarcerated. Passed in 2004, the statute allows anyone who was incarcerated because of an erroneous felony conviction to bring a civil claim against the Commonwealth for damages. These claims can be tried in front of a jury or a judge; the statute guarantees claimants the right to a jury trial if they want one.

To be eligible to recover damages, claimants must meet the requirements imposed by Section 1 of the statute. They must prove that, among other things, they are innocent of the crime for which they were convicted. It is not enough to show that their conviction was overturned because of procedural, evidentiary, or other reasons. 258D is meant to help exonerees who can show that they are actually innocent of the crime in question.

Total damages in a 258D claim cannot exceed $500,000.00. 

Section 8 of the law requires that 258D claims be brought within 2 years of a conviction being overturned. Any claims not brought within the time limit will be “forever barred from consideration by the courts of the commonwealth.”

Subsequent cases have imposed a strict threshold on other claimants, ruling against them unless they can prove that they are actually innocent. Exonerated individuals whose convictions were overturned merely for procedural or evidentiary reasons – or because of problems with their juries or the prosecutors – cannot bring 258D claims unless they can independently prove that they did not commit the crimes for which they were convicted.