581 U.S. ___ (2017)
COLORADO SHANNON NELSON, PETITIONER LOUIS A. MADDEN, PETITIONER
January 9, 2017
OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF COLORADO
Shannon Nelson was convicted by a Colorado jury of two
felonies and three misdemeanors arising from the alleged
sexual and physical abuse of her four children. The trial
court imposed a prison term of 20 years to life and ordered
her to pay $8, 192.50 in court costs, fees, and restitution.
On appeal, Nelson's conviction was reversed for trial
error, and on retrial, she was acquitted of all charges.
Louis Alonzo Madden was convicted by a Colorado jury of
attempting to patronize a prostituted child and attempted
sexual assault. The trial court imposed an indeterminate
prison sentence and ordered him to pay $4, 413.00 in costs,
fees, and restitution. After one of Madden's convictions
was reversed on direct review and the other vacated on
postconviction review, the State elected not to appeal or
retry the case.
Colorado Department of Corrections withheld $702.10 from
Nelson's inmate account between her conviction and
acquittal, and Madden paid the State $1, 977.75 after his
conviction. In both cases, the funds were allocated to costs,
fees, and restitution. Once their convictions were
invalidated, both petitioners moved for return of the funds.
Nelson's trial court denied her motion outright, and
Madden's postconviction court allowed a refund of costs
and fees, but not restitution. The Colorado Court of Appeals
concluded that both petitioners were entitled to seek refunds
of all they had paid, but the Colorado Supreme Court
reversed. It reasoned that Colorado's Compensation for
Certain Exonerated Persons statute (Exoneration Act or Act),
Colo. Rev. Stat. §§13-65-101, 13-65-102, 13-65-103,
provided the exclusive authority for refunds and that,
because neither Nelson nor Madden had filed a claim under
that Act, the courts lacked authority to order refunds. The
Colorado Supreme Court also held that there was no due
process problem under the Act, which permits Colorado to
retain conviction-related assessments unless and until the
prevailing defendant institutes a discrete civil proceeding
and proves her innocence by clear and convincing evidence.
Exoneration Act's scheme does not comport with the
Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of due process. Pp.
(a) The procedural due process inspection required by
Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, governs these
cases. Medina v. California, 505 U.S. 437, controls
when state procedural rules that are part of the criminal
process are at issue. These cases, in contrast, concern the
continuing deprivation of property after a conviction has
been reversed or vacated, with no prospect of reprosecution.
(b) The three considerations balanced under
Mathews-the private interest affected; the risk of
erroneous deprivation of that interest through the procedures
used; and the governmental interest at stake-weigh decisively
against Colorado's scheme. Pp. 6-10.
(1) Nelson and Madden have an obvious interest in regaining
the money they paid to Colorado. The State may not retain
these funds simply because Nelson's and Madden's
convictions were in place when the funds were taken, for once
those convictions were erased, the presumption of innocence
was restored. See, e.g., Johnson v. Mississippi, 486
U.S. 578, 585. And Colorado may not presume a person,
adjudged guilty of no crime, nonetheless guilty
enough for monetary exactions. Pp. 6-8.
(2) Colorado's scheme creates an unacceptable risk of the
erroneous deprivation of defendants' property. The
Exoneration Act conditions refund on defendants' proof of
innocence by clear and convincing evidence, but defendants in
petitioners' position are presumed innocent. Moreover,
the Act provides no remedy for assessments tied to invalid
misdemeanor convictions. And when, as here, the recoupment
amount sought is not large, the cost of mounting a claim
under the Act and retaining counsel to pursue it would be
Colorado argues that an Act that provides sufficient process
to compensate a defendant for the loss of her liberty must
suffice to compensate a defendant for the lesser deprivation
of money. But Nelson and Madden seek the return of their
property, not compensation for its temporary deprivation.
Just as restoration of liberty on reversal of a conviction is
not compensation, neither is the return of money taken by the
State on account of the conviction. Other procedures cited by
Colorado-the need for probable cause to support criminal
charges, the jury-trial right, and the State's burden to
prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt-do not address the risk
faced by a defendant whose conviction has been overturned
that she will not recover funds taken from her based solely
on a conviction no longer valid. Pp. 8-10.
(3) Colorado has no interest in withholding from Nelson and
Madden money to which the State currently has zero claim of
right. The State has identified no equitable considerations
favoring its position, nor indicated any way in which the
Exoneration Act embodies such considerations. P. 10.
362 P.3d 1070 (first judgment) and 364 P.3d 866 (second
judgment), reversed and remanded.
GINSBURG, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
ROBERTS, C. J., and Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan,
JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed an opinion concurring in the
judgment. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion. GORSUCH,
J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the
criminal conviction is invalidated by a reviewing court and
no retrial will occur, is the State obliged to refund fees,
court costs, and restitution exacted from the defendant upon,
and as a consequence of, the conviction? Our answer is yes.
Absent conviction of a crime, one is presumed innocent. Under
the Colorado law before us in these cases, however, the State
retains conviction-related assessments unless and until the
prevailing defendant institutes a discrete civil proceeding
and proves her innocence by clear and convincing evidence.
This scheme, we hold, offends the Fourteenth Amendment's
guarantee of due process.
cases are before us for review. Petitioner Shannon Nelson, in
2006, was convicted by a Colorado jury of five counts-two
felonies and three misdemeanors-arising from the alleged
sexual and physical abuse of her four children. 362 P.3d
1070, 1071 (Colo. 2015); App. 25-26.
trial court imposed a prison sentence of 20 years to life and
ordered Nelson to pay court costs, fees, and restitution
totaling $8, 192.50. 362 P.3d, at 1071. On appeal,
Nelson's conviction was reversed for trial error.
Ibid. On retrial, a new jury acquitted Nelson of all
Louis Alonzo Madden, in 2005, was convicted by a Colorado
jury of attempting to patronize a prostituted child and
attempted third-degree sexual assault by force. See 364 P.3d
866, 867 (Colo. 2015). The trial court imposed an
indeterminate prison sentence and ordered Madden to pay
costs, fees, and restitution totaling $4, 413.00.
Ibid. The Colorado Supreme Court reversed one of
Madden's convictions on direct review, and a
postconviction court vacated the other. Ibid. The
State elected not to appeal or retry the case. Ibid.
Nelson's conviction and acquittal, the Colorado
Department of Corrections withheld $702.10 from her inmate
account, $287.50 of which went to costs and
feesand $414.60 to restitution. See 362 P.3d,
at 1071, and n. 1. Following Madden's conviction, Madden
paid Colorado $1, 977.75, $1, 220 of which went to costs and
feesand $757.75 to restitution. See 364 P.3d,
at 867. The sole legal basis for these assessments was the
fact of Nelson's and Madden's
convictions. Absent those convictions, Colorado would
have no legal right to exact and retain petitioners'
convictions invalidated, both petitioners moved for return of
the amounts Colorado had taken from them. In Nelson's
case, the trial court denied the motion outright. 362 P.3d,
at 1071. In Madden's case, the postconviction court
allowed the refund of costs and fees, but not restitution.
364 P.3d, at 867-868.
same Colorado Court of Appeals panel heard both cases and
concluded that Nelson and Madden were entitled to seek
refunds of all they had paid, including amounts allocated to
restitution. See People v. Nelson, 369 P.3d 625,
628-629 (2013); People v. Madden, 2013 WL 1760869,
*1 (Apr. 25, 2013). Costs, fees, and restitution, the court
held, must be "tied to a valid conviction, " 369
P.3d, at 627-628, absent which a court must "retur[n]
the defendant to the status quo ante, " 2013 WL 1760869,
Colorado Supreme Court reversed in both cases. A court must
have statutory authority to issue a refund, that court
stated. 362 P.3d, at 1077; 364 P.3d, at 868. Colorado's
Compensation for Certain Exonerated Persons statute
(Exoneration Act or Act), Colo. Rev. Stat.
§§13-65-101, 13-65-102, 13-65-103 (2016), passed in
2013, "provides the proper procedure for seeking a
refund, " the court ruled. 362 P.3d, at 1075, 1077. As
no other statute addresses refunds, the court concluded that
the Exoneration Act is the "exclusive process for
exonerated defendants seeking a refund of costs, fees, and
restitution." Id., at 1078. Because neither
Nelson nor Madden had filed a claim under the Act, the court
further determined, their trial courts lacked authority to
order a refund. Id., at 1075, 1078; 364 P.3d, at
There was no due process problem, the court continued,
because the Act "provides sufficient process for
defendants to seek refunds of costs, fees, and restitution
that they paid in connection with their conviction." 362
P.3d, at 1078.
Hood dissented in both cases. Because neither petitioner has
been validly convicted, he explained, each must be presumed
innocent. Id., at 1079 (Nelson); 364 P.3d,
at 870 (adopting his reasoning from Nelson in
Madden). Due process therefore requires some
mechanism "for the return of a defendant's money,
" Justice Hood maintained, 362 P.3d, at 1080; as the
Exoneration Act required petitioners to prove their
innocence, the Act, he concluded, did not supply the remedy
due process demands, id., at 1081. We granted
certiorari. 579 U.S. __(2016).
Exoneration Act provides a civil claim for relief "to
compensate an innocent person who was wrongly
convicted." 362 P.3d, at 1075. Recovery under the Act is
available only to a defendant who has served all or part of a
term of incarceration pursuant to a felony conviction, and
whose conviction has been overturned for reasons other than
insufficiency of evidence or legal error unrelated to actual
innocence. See §13-65-102. To succeed on an Exoneration
Act claim, a petitioner must show, by clear and convincing
evidence, her actual innocence of the offense of conviction.
§§13-65-101(1), 13-65-102(1). A successful
petitioner may recoup, in addition to compensation for time
served,  "any fine, penalty, court costs, or
restitution . . . paid ... as a result of his or her wrongful
conviction." Id., at 1075 (quoting §
Colorado's legislation, as just recounted, a defendant
must prove her innocence by clear and convincing evidence to
obtain the refund of costs, fees, and restitution paid
pursuant to an invalid conviction. That scheme, we hold, does
not comport with due process. Accordingly, we reverse the
judgment of the Supreme Court of Colorado.
familiar procedural due process inspection instructed by
Mathews v. Eldridge,424 U.S. 319 (1976), governs
these cases. Colorado argues that we should instead apply the
standard from Medina v. California,505 U.S. 437,
445 (1992), and inquire whether Nelson and Madden were
exposed to a procedure offensive to a fundamental principle
of justice. Medina "provide[s] the appropriate
framework for assessing the validity of state procedural
rules" that "are part of the criminal
process." Id., at 443. Such rules concern, for
example, the allocation of burdens of proof and the type of
evidence qualifying as admissible.These cases, in contrast,
concern the continuing deprivation of property after a
conviction has been reversed or vacated, with no prospect of
reprosecution. See Kaley v. United States, 571
U.S.__, __, n. 4 (2014) (ROBERTS, C. J., dissenting) (slip
op., at ...