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People whose drug convictions are set aside thanks to Annie Dookhan can't get court fees back

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that a Quincy man whose marijuana-possession conviction was set aside because the pot had been tested by infamous result forger Annie Dookhan can't get back the $830 in probation and victim-assistance fees he paid after he initially pleaded guilty.

Although state law allows judges to return fines to people whose convictions are overturned when they successfully appeal those convictions, the state's highest court ruled that the probation fees the man paid during his probation were just that, not fines, and the law doesn't cover the return of fees.

A similar situation applies to the $50 victim-assistance fee the man paid: The court said that while the law allows for its return if a person successfully appeals a conviction, it is silent when it comes to people who are allowed to withdraw guilty pleas and for whom prosecutors then just drop the case because of something like what Dookhan did:

The withdrawal of a guilty plea followed by an order vacating the conviction, does not constitute a conviction that was "overturned on appeal." ... Here, the defendant did not appeal from his conviction; rather, his conviction was vacated after a judge of the District Court granted postconviction relief. ...

The Legislature clearly intended to provide a refund for the § 8 assessment to a narrow category of defendants because it used the specific phrase "overturned on appeal." If the Legislature had intended to expand the pool of eligible claimants to those whose convictions were overturned through postconviction relief under Mass. R. Crim. P. 30, or other types of judicial relief, it could have stated that intention expressly.

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Comments

So the clowns on the SJC finally found a way to permit the Commonwealth to tax innocence.

Figures!

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Getting your case Dookhanated doesn't necessarily mean you're innocent - the court has upheld several convictions where the prosecution presented enough evidence to merit a conviction even without the tainted drug certification.

In this case, the prosecution decided not to re-try the guy, probably because of the nature of the charges. Yes, still seems unfair he couldn't get his money back, but that's not the same as being proven innocent.

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Innocent until proven guilty is the law of the land.

The SJC has once again ignored the state and federal constitutions' protection of the little people.

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He pleaded guilty. When the Dookhan news broke, he moved to rescind his plea, a judge agreed and prosecutors decided not to try him instead.

There are reasons to be outraged about this ruling, but innocent until proven guilty is not one of them.

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The courts are not about justice, at least not when there's money coming in. Look what happens when a traffic ticket is written: even if the court determines that no offense occurred, the driver has to pay fees to get that ruling, and those fees are not refunded.

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Happy to here at least one Boston Judge isn't a push over

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