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Let’s say you’re an underwater welder with a net profit rate of $500/hour of work. The government puts you on trial for a murder you didn’t commit. The proceedings take a long time and the court is far from the ocean, so you end up missing out on 100 hours of paid work.

Are there countries where said welder would be entitled to $50,000 in compensation from the government in exchange for the time they’ve spent away from work? (Assuming they’re found not guilty at the end)

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    I bet there aren't. It would either inflate the burden on taxpayers, or deter prosecutors from prosecuting unless they are 100% confident in the prospects of conviction.
    – Greendrake
    Commented May 10 at 16:39
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    Related law.stackexchange.com/questions/96122/…
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 10 at 22:14
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    Related law.stackexchange.com/questions/87774/… and law.stackexchange.com/questions/29266/… including relevant laws in France.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 10 at 22:37
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    Not only would this deter prosecutions, it would more strongly deter prosecutions of richer people whose time is "worth" more.
    – kaya3
    Commented May 13 at 17:08
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    The calculation here is simplistic. What about legal costs? Travel costs? Potential long running consequences of losing contracts due to an unscheduled absence? I'm not saying they must be included, but there's a long discussion on what constitutes "full" compensation before we can even judge if anyone does so.
    – Flater
    Commented May 14 at 1:46

5 Answers 5

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As explained in another answer at this site to a related question, there is some provision for compensation in France. The answer said:

"Losses suffered through pre-trial detention . . . are supposed to be compensated: code de procédure pénale, article 149: . . . .

Whoever was put into pre-trial detention within a procedure that ended with a final dismissal of charges or acquittal is entitled to full compensation for the moral and material prejudice suffered through the detention. However, no compensation is due when:

acquittal is due to . . . [the . . . "insanity defense"];

the subject was granted amnesty after the pre-trial detention;

the statute of limitations runs out after the subject, detained for another reason, is freed;

the subject freely and voluntarily accused themselves, or wrongly let themselves be accused, in order to allow the real culprit to escape prosecution.

Court cases relating to such compensation are heard by the appeals court, and can be appealed to the Commission nationale de réparation des détentions, a subcommittee of the Cour de Cassation (highest appeal court in criminal matters). The Cour de Cassation website has a helpful analysis of the CNRD jurisprudence if you are interested."

Since the French penal code has been used as a model in many other civil law countries in the world, it is likely that many other countries have copied Section 149 of its Criminal Procedure Code and have similar provisions, on the books at least.

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    It should be noted that the compensation is for time spent in (pre-trial) detention, not for the time you spend in court fighting the case. Commented May 12 at 6:41
  • Have there been cases of (say) high powered CEOs getting millions of euros of compensation for their time or is there a low cap? Commented May 14 at 0:55
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You can't prove a negative, but ...

Article 14.6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) says:

  1. When a person has by a final decision been convicted of a criminal offence and when subsequently his conviction has been reversed or he has been pardoned on the ground that a new or newly discovered fact shows conclusively that there has been a miscarriage of justice, the person who has suffered punishment as a result of such conviction shall be compensated according to law, unless it is proved that the non-disclosure of the unknown fact in time is wholly or partly attributable to him.

For those countries that have signed and ratified the ICCPR, this obligation is pretty empty because of the "according to law" part - if the law provides for no compensation, they have complied by paying nothing. Some countries, such as New Zealand, have a robust administrative procedure for compensation, others, such as Australia and the United States, predominately use ex-gratia payments; that is, they make a payment even though there is no legal obligation to; and still others ignore it completely. AFAIK, these payments do not compensate for lost income.

Notwithstanding, there is no international obligation to compensate people who are acquitted, either at first instance or on appeal, even though they may have spent many years in gaol.

Some jurisdictions provide compensation for malicious prosecution but, again, not for loss of income.

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    The ICCPR also applies only to wrongful convictions, not to wrongful prosecutions that don't give rise to a conviction.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 10 at 23:29
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    @ohwilleke that’s what I said
    – Dale M
    Commented May 11 at 0:38
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    But it means most of the answer is irrelevant to the question (which is about prosecution not conviction). Are you sure that there are no jurisdictions that compensate (a statement you throw out at the end)? Commented May 13 at 8:45
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In China, as I know, if a prisoner is acquitted and released, according to the "State Compensation Law of the People's Republic of China," they are entitled to apply for state compensation. This means that the state is obligated to compensate individuals who have been wrongfully detained or convicted, in order to uphold their legal rights. The compensation typically encompasses payment for the period during which their personal freedom was unjustly restricted, calculated based on the national average daily wage of employees for the previous year. For instance, as of the latest standard (assuming the date aligns with the time of inquiry), the daily compensation rate effective from May 15, 2024, is 315.94 yuan.

In addition to direct compensation for loss of liberty, if the acquitted individual's health was harmed during detention or if they suffered other direct economic losses, such as property being wrongly seized, the state is also legally required to provide compensation. Compensation is primarily in the form of a monetary payment but may also involve the return of property, restoration to its original condition, coverage of medical expenses, reimbursement for lost income due to forced absence from work, and, based on the degree of incapacity to work, provision of disability compensation.

However, the compensation amount is set according to the average earnings, rather than the specific salary of the individual involved. Adopting a compensation system based on each individual's actual income could significantly strain the judiciary's financial resources. Consequently, this financial strain may adversely affect conviction rates, as courts might inadvertently be incentivized to shy away from decisions that would necessitate substantial payouts for those with higher incomes, while potentially leading to a higher incidence of wrongful convictions among lower-income individuals due to the relatively lower compensation costs associated with them.

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    It sounds like if you are unemployed or earn below the average, being prosecuted could be quite profitable!
    – abligh
    Commented May 11 at 7:25
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    @abligh But the crux lies in how to engineer a wrongful conviction, as such miscarriages of justice are not common occurrences Commented May 11 at 8:18
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    @abligh afaik the conviction rate is 99+% so most likely you’ll be sent off to prison no matter what. Commented May 11 at 15:00
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    Is there any evidence that this has ever been paid out to anyone? Sounds like public policy to keep the masses complacent thinking there's a fair and working legal system in place. But it is it ever used in practice?
    – Lundin
    Commented May 13 at 6:52
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    @Lundin Yes, the law is used relatively regularly (not just for criminal law), e.g. chinadaily.com.cn/a/202310/31/WS654102f5a31090682a5ebbb6.html, global.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201901/08/…
    – xngtng
    Commented May 13 at 7:52
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Here is almost the reverse (wrongful conviction rather than acquittal): Wrongly convicted in Britain no longer forced to pay ‘saved living costs’ in prison

One of Britain’s longest-serving victims of a miscarriage of justice, Malkinson, 57, had his conviction overturned last month by the court of appeal after spending 17 years in prison for a rape he did not commit. Yet his return as a free man quickly soured when Malkinson was told to pay back living costs for his time in jail and that there would be a deduction from any compensation for his board and lodging while behind bars.

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    I mean, deducting room and board from the settlement for lost wages, loss of professional opportunities, destruction of personal relationships, libel, etc. isn't terribly unreasonable on the face of it... But when you look into it a bit more, they don't seem to bother to make it an actually fair settlement to begin with and, in fact, have a cap on how much may be awarded for damages, regardless of actual amount of damage caused. So then insisting on making deductions for the expense of wrongfully holding someone on top of that seems downright mean.
    – Perkins
    Commented May 12 at 19:36
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To expand on the situation in Mainland mentioned by another answer, the State Compensation Law provides, since 2010, that the State is liable

Where a citizen is detained in violation of the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Law, or where a citizen is detained in accordance with the conditions and procedures set forth in the Criminal Procedure Law, but is detained for a period of time longer than the time limit set forth in the Criminal Procedure Law, and a decision is subsequently made to terminate the pursuit of criminal liability by dismissing the case, by refraining from prosecuting the case, or by a verdict of acquittal;

and

Where, after a citizen is arrested, a decision is taken to terminate the pursuit of criminal liability by dismissing the case, by refraining from prosecuting the case, or by a verdict of acquittal;

Detention and arrest are different steps in the Chinese criminal law system. The state compensation is not given in every case where a suspension of liberty occurs to a person subsequently absolved of criminal liability.

The investigative authority decides on detention of persons caught in commission of a crime or with significant suspicion, for formally "urgent" purposes e.g. to avoid destruction of evidence and continued criminal activity. Most of the time, the investigative authority is the police (public security), though some cases are directly investigated by the prosecuting authority. The investigative authority decides whether to dismiss a case.

The time of criminal detention is in law (not in practice) 3 days in principle with 4-day extension possible and another a 30-day extension possible for "serious" criminals; so, in practice, the maximum for normal cases is 37 days. This is considered a necessary emergency procedure and no compensation is due unless the detention violates the Code and the case against suspect is subsequently terminated without guilty finding.

The prosecuting authority alone decides on whether to arrest a person suspected of a crime based on the police's or its own investigative report and based on the severity of the crime (and other individual factors). It should be noted, formally, the Procuratorate is a separate branch of government and report directly to the legislature and to the higher-level Procuratorate instead of the local or national executive authority.

The maximum time for arrest is the same as the maximum time to make a decision whether to pursue the criminal charge in court. The formal maximum time is two months but there are many extensions possible (e.g. for remote areas, cases with multiple accuseds, offences punishable with 10 years of prison or more), and the counter is reset every time a significant evidence of another offence or criminal action is discovered or the jurisdiction is transferred to another Procuratorate, and in extreme cases can be essentially indefinite if the authorization is given by the Supreme Procuratorate.

The prosecutorial authority decides whether to prosecute. It can decide not to prosecute for legal reasons (e.g., insufficient evidence, exceeding the statute of limitation) or in exercise of its discretion (e.g. minor offence, possibly excessive self-defence, voluntary abandonment mid-offence). Only a non-prosecution decision based on legal reasons entitles the accused to state compensation.

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