Certificates of Innocence Require That Petitioners Prove Innocence of All Charges

Summary of Thomas Warner’s Case and Appeals

The news is full of people who have had the charges dropped against them by the state because of bad evidence, recanting witnesses and, at times, even police misconduct. Most people think once they have the charges dismissed and expunged, they are entitled to a Certificate of Innocence. This is often not the case.

A certificate of innocence has just one function. It serves no purpose other than to permit its bearer the right to sue the government for damages. A person who secures a certificate of innocence may then file a petition in the state’s Court of Claims seeking compensation against the State of Illinois.

In 2012, 17-year-old Thomas Warner was arrested within 1,000 feet of a school currently in session. When arrested, Warner confessed to police that he was in possession of a firearm and did not possess an FOID card. He was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school and six counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AUUW) including one for possessing a firearm without a valid firearm owner’s identification (FOID) card. As part of a plea deal, he pled guilty to one count of possessing a firearm without a valid FOID card and the rest of the charges were nolle-prossed.

At a later hearing, Warner asked the court to vacate his AUUW conviction on the grounds that the statute which was based on had since been ruled unconstitutional. The AUUW was vacated. Warner later sought a certificate of innocence (COI) on the basis that due to his vacated conviction, he was now eligible. Certificates of Innocence can be granted to individuals who are innocent of all charges for which they were incarcerated.

The state court argued that Warner was ineligible for a COI because he had to prove innocence to all of the charges, not only the charges which were prosecuted. Warner appealed the decision, but the appellate court upheld the states position, citing 2-702(g)(3) which requires a petition show that he is “innocent of the offenses charged in the indictment or information[.]”
Because Warner did not claim to be innocent of the other charges, even though they were not prosecuted, the appellate court agreed with the state that Warner was not eligible for a COI. Both the state court and the appellate court’s decisions hinged upon the wording in section g of the above statute.

Consequences of the Decision for Legal Precedent

Thomas Warner’s case shows that if you have been charged with multiple charges in a court case, you will need to prove your innocence of all charges if you are seeking a certificate of innocence. Even if you were not prosecuted for some of those charges, you will need to prove that you were innocent of each charge in order to get a COI. This will be a tough, uphill legal battle and you will need a good and experienced lawyer if you want to succeed.

Contact an Experienced Lawyer Today

It is important to get professional help in order to seek out a COI. Do not delay in acquiring legal help from our law offices. Glasgow & Olsson is uniquely qualified to help, especially if you need help proving innocence in charges which may not have been prosecuted. Make sure to acquire legal assistance the whole way through. When you need an attorney, experience matters. Contact us today to learn how our experience can get you the results you deserve.

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