The Justice Department issued dire warnings in 1997 when Congress passed a law allowing defendants who are exonerated to seek legal fees from the government. The so-called Hyde Amendment, the DOJ warned, could cost valuable time and money, and worse, hamper prosecutors.
It hasn’t turned out that way. Two years later, a close study of the law reveals that the department’s worst fears so far have not been realized. Justice Department statistics show that only 76 petitions have been filed a number that pales in comparison with the approximately 100,000 cases filed by U.S. attorney’s offices the past two years. What’s more, federal trial court judges have ruled for defendants only seven times, with the DOJ prevailing 39 times. (Some of those cases are on appeal.)
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