A man in Texas was wrongfully arrested on the grounds of sexual assault, and he was sent to prison. He stayed there for 25 years, getting out in the mid-1990s. Another man had committed the crimes, but this wasn’t discovered until DNA evidence was used to clear his name.
However, that man had been ordered to pay child support before he went to jail. Since he was locked up, he missed the payments, and a court then told him he owed a total of $334,000.
However, since it has been shown that he should never have been in jail anyway, the state has to cover his expenses from that time—including the child support—under Timothy Cole Act.
While this is fairly straightforward, the amount that the state has to pay—using money collected with taxes—is under consideration. A case has recently begun to determine if the state has to hand over the full total of $334,000 or if it should pay a lesser amount. Some are arguing the state should only pay $18,500.
If the court sides with the state comptroller and says that the state shouldn’t have to pay the total, the issue returns for the wrongfully-convicted man, as he would then be obligated to pay whatever remains. If the state only has to pay the $18,500, then, the man would have to put up $315,500.
This is an incredibly important case because it shows just how large of an impact unpaid child support can have on all parties—both the man who was locked up mistakenly and the family who did not get $334,000 in payments. In complex cases, people must know all of their rights.
Source: Houston Chronicle, “High court hears exoneree child-support case,” Mike Ward, Nov. 03, 2015