Does the government have to compensate the money one could have earned while on trial?

For example: Jim is a full-time employee at a gas stop in the US, and is paid minimum wage. He is the only source of income for his wife and three kids. Suddenly, police officers trace a dead body back to his garbage can, and he is taken into custody. He is not able to post bail, and since he does not have the funds to hire a decent lawyer to defend him, the government provides him a third-rate lawyer, he is indicted and the trial lasts five months. The verdict is not guilty, and Jim is released.

Is Jim entitled to compensation by the for the salary he would have earned had he not been on trial?


1 Answer 1


Most U.S. states provide zero compensation of any kind in this situation, although there are a few states that are exceptions. (Far more states provide compensation from conviction to release for a wrongfully convicted person.)

Even in those few states that provide compensation to acquitted defendants, the compensation is typically set by statute and is frequently much less than what a middle class person would earn and certainly does not capture the full extent of the defendant's economic loss.

  • I should also add that the situation is different if Jim was intentionally framed by the police and he can prove this after the fact in a lawsuit. TV shows and movies notwithstanding, the vast majority of acquittals happen because (1) the cops got the wrong guy but mistakenly thought that they had the right guy, or (2) they got the right guy but couldn't prove it, or (3) they did frame the guy but it would be impossible to prove that this is what happened. But, if Jim proved the cops intentionally framed him, he could sue for a violation of his federal civil rights and get full compensation.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Nov 1, 2017 at 23:31

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