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Jim Reilly
Jim Reilly, Crim Defense Atty
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 1805
Experience:  CA Atty since 1976, primarily criminal law. 150+ jury trials.
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My son is doing a 1 year jail sentence for a residential

Customer Question

My son is doing a 1 year jail sentence for a residential burglary that he and 3 others commited. He had just turned 18 and the others were minors. The judge passed down to him a $20,000 restitution fine that only he was ordered to pay, in fact the others werent charged as he was the only "adult" and he admitted to everything and even help the police in recovery of the property. He maintained all along he would take full responsibility for his actions, but that he was only responsible for aprox. $2000 in property. His public defender wasnt much help and didnt fight for him at all, yet said she commended him for his honesty and integrity on helping police in the case for the prior 10+ months before he was actually sentenced. He was the "adult" & it was his vehical used. My question is can a restitution be appealed once its set forth? He wasnt even present for the hearing setting this huge fine. He has asked for an itemized list and cant get that either. Can this be reduced or appealed?
Submitted: 9 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  Jim Reilly replied 9 years ago.
Under Washington law, the amount of restitution ordered by the court may be determined by the amount of the defendant's "gain" from the crime or the amount of the victim's "loss" from the crime. (RCW 9A.20.030)

It sounds as though the court determined that the total loss to the victim was $20,000 and, since your son was the only person convicted, required him to make the full amount of the loss, even though he didn't personally "gain" all of it himself.

I have long had a personal motto which I wrote as a young district attorney in Orange County, California, more than 30 years ago, which reads:

"No man has greater courage, honor and integrity than he who forthrightly accepts responsibility for his actions, regardless of the consequences."

I therefore commend your son for his accepting responsibility for his actions and assisting in the resolution of this crime. Doing so demonstrates that he has learned from this mistake and is not likely to repeat it.

Court orders of restitution are appeable, if the appeal is filed in a timely manner. If it is not already too late and he wants to take this route, your son should ask his public defender to file a notice of appeal. The public defender's office will not handle the appeal, but Washington is one of several states which pays for indigent appeals directly. Contact your local county bar association for information on how to obtain this assistance.

He can also ask the trial court to reconsider the amount of the restitution fine. He can discuss this with his public defender.

The terms on which he will actually have to make payments on the restitution fine will be determined by his probation officer once he has completed his jail term.

Jim Reilly
Customer: replied 9 years ago.
This occured when he had just turned 18- he will be 21 in January- very stupid choice on his part, one of which he deeply regrets. The other three were 17 and were given minimal juvy sentences of probabtion-no fines. My sons father and I feel this was just very wrong as it was my son who was the one who aided in property recovery (over a ten month period) and told the police the other three kids names- he was, pardon my lack of better verbage, way too overy honest without representation at the time and was told he wouldnt recieve much more than perhaps 3 months jail etc. He accepted the 12 months however, It came out of no where with this $20,000 fine and it has devestated him to know how much he took the complete fall due to his honesty and was probably hit the hardest because of his age. So, what do you think from your past knowledge & experience-do you think his chances are of getting this reduced or? His sentence is up in October. Also, he doesnt have an atty currently. And to my utter irritation and dismay has been recieving the restitution payments THE ENTIRE TIME he has been in jail. Its incuring massive intrest at an alarming rate and this has baffled me to no end that he is even getting them since he isnt even out yet. Anyway, what do you think his chances are of getting this restitution re-evaluated & reduced thru the legal system really are? We are even looking into hiring an atty if there is a good chance. Also, isnt he legally entitled an itemized list, so to speak, of the property in question? He recovered 80+% and says a remaining $2000 perhaps is still unaccounted for. He is still in a daze over how that fine came into play. THANK YOU.
Expert:  Jim Reilly replied 9 years ago.
It is very difficult to evaluate the probability of getting the restitution fine decreased without knowing the judge and more details of the case.

Because he is going to be on probation, the sentencing court has jurisdiction to modify the terms of that probation, including the amount of the restitution fine. Therefore, I think it would be worth consulting with an attorney who can provide a more "hands on" evaluation -- particularly if you speak with a local attorney who knows the judge involved.

If most of the property was recovered and the remaining loss really is only $2000, he has a good argument for reducing the amount of the restitution order. An attorney would also be able to obtain an accounting of the actual loss and recovery, which would be a big help in trying to get the resitution order reduced.

If you can't otherwise find a lawyer, check with the local county bar association for a referral.

Good luck to you and your son.

Jim Reilly