Call Today for a FREE Consultation

262-923-8761

24 HOUR EMERGENCY CONTACT

Criminal restitution orders leave juveniles languishing in debt

| Jul 19, 2019 | Criminal Defense

When we think of people being ordered to pay restitution to the victim of their criminal act, we typically picture that victim being an ordinary person who lost valuables in, say, a burglary. We imagine the restitution is directly tied to the criminal behavior, with simple justice requiring the victim to be repaid. It’s often a lot more complicated than that.

For example, in one Arizona case, a 15-year-old boy damaged his parents’ car while driving it without permission. There was no need for criminal charges, but the insurance company refused to pay unless the parents agreed to prosecute their own son. It then sought restitution from the boy.

Or consider the example of a Maine teen. He fought back against a bully, injuring him in a fist fight. A court ordered him to pay $12,347.33 to the insurance company that covered the bully’s medical bills.

“These are children in poverty making payments to multimillion-dollar corporations, under the threat of jail,” said a spokesperson for the Juvenile Law Center, a legal advocacy group. In other cases, it’s still a child struggling to pay off a victim who is usually an adult.

According to the Marshall Project, the large majority of kids caught up in the juvenile justice system are from poverty. Yet 30 states allow juvenile restitution to insurance companies. And, only a half-dozen states cap the payments based on the juvenile’s ability to pay.

Inability to pay restitution can have oversized consequences

Juvenile defendants are often assessed a variety of fines and fees related to their offenses — often regardless of their ability to pay. Of all the added costs in the juvenile justice system, restitution is usually the largest.

When the restitution is not paid, the juvenile case remains open, sometimes for years after the defendant has served their time. That means they can be subjected to continued probation (and fees), GPS monitoring (and fees), random drug tests (and fees) and warrantless searches. They can even be sent back to jail for small probation violations.

The Marshall Project also found that juveniles who can afford restitution are sometimes offered better plea deals, which partially explains why wealthier kids spend less time in juvenile facilities.

Some advocates for juvenile restitution argue that it’s only responsible for juveniles to pay the full consequences of their actions. Otherwise, they may end up making even more costly mistakes.

Yet restitution for a juvenile mistake is a harsh punishment if it keeps kids trapped for years in both poverty and the juvenile justice system, unable to contribute to society.

Archives

“I just want to say thank you for the outstanding work you have done for him and let you know how much we appreciate the time and attention you gave to his case. We are obviously overjoyed by today’s dismissal!” (Child pornography case dismissed after motion to suppress was granted)”

“After having had time to exhale, we thank each one of you and all the others who contributed to the exemplary Supreme Court presentation. We are proud of your efforts on our behalf and, equally important, on behalf of the many present and future defendants statewide.” (Client’s comment after Supreme Court oral argument)

“Thank you. Thank you. I am so pleased to hear that we won. It doesn’t seem that it was even a close call. I appreciate your efforts.” (Oconto County defendant after Buting, Williams & Stilling got his prison sentence overturned in the court of appeals) ”

“Your time and advice was appreciated more than words can express at a time when we really needed someone to guide us.” (Client)

“The outcome was amazing, one unavailable even under identical circumstances in probably 98 percent of federal courtrooms around the country. Separate and apart from the outcome, though, I am supremely impressed by your efforts on your client’s behalf. Your comments in support of the requested sentence were perfect in tone and, having now reviewed the extensive sentencing memorandum you filed, your work in that regard was exemplary as well. Your client was certainly fortunate to have you as his attorney.” (Local federal court attorney present at a sentencing)

“I can’t thank you enough, not only for all of the tireless work that you and your staff put into my case, but for telling me what I needed to hear, at a time when I absolutely had to hear it. I consider myself blessed for everything turning out the way it did, especially since I blindly picked you out of a phone book! You helped me, my family and friends in many more ways than the money ever could.” (Child pornography client)

“I think you will find that in any circles where Kathy’s name is raised, people will always respond positively and identify her as an extremely hardworking, knowledgeable and ethical lawyer who is timely and effective with any endeavor she takes on. These circles would include colleagues, friends, prosecutors, judges, professors and others who have crossed paths with Kathy. They would also include the many lawyers like me who have referred numerous cases to Kathy, invariably with positive feedback from the clients regarding her knowledge of their case, empathy, professionalism and fair-mindedness in addressing their concerns.” (Fellow attorney)

“Thank you for giving [our son] back to us. Wonderful work!” (Family of client accused of armed robbery after charges were dismissed)

“Yes, His perfect time and perfect place, you were a part of this plan. I almost didn’t hire you, but I took a step of faith trusting Him and look what happened? Praise God. Our Lord put you in your vocation for a reason, continue to help those He brings your way. May He bless you in ALL you do!” (Client who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in a northwestern Wisconsin county. He was released from prison after attorneys got his conviction reversed.)

“I really cannot thank you enough for your past help. You really know your stuff. It is actually funny when I think about my other past attorney’s knowledge and then when I talk with you. It’s like night and day. You’re like a walking book of knowledge with a purpose-driven life. Thanks.” (Brown County client of attorney Buting)

“A year later and I still believe your defense is the single best example of lawyering I have ever seen.” (Television reporter commenting on attorney Buting’s defense of Steven Avery)

“You have a certain brilliance that makes me sure that when you talk, it is good information and I am in good hands. You tell it to me like it is even when the things you say are not always the things that I would like to hear. You keep it REAL!!!” (Brown County client)

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel like this was one of the biggest blessings that happened in my life. I put this along with my children being born healthy and when I survived that horrific shooting. I appreciate everything you have done for me. I couldn’t ask for better lawyers. I want to say thank you to everybody at your firm. I owe you more than the fee you so rightfully deserve. … You gave me back hope. Thank you, man! Out of my 36 years … I have never seen such kindness before. I don’t know what I did to deserve this; I’m very thankful nonetheless. Thank you for giving me hope again. Thank you for your generosity. There are still some really good people around.” (Federal criminal appeal client)

“There is no other attorney I’ve ever even heard of I’d rather have as chief counsel and leader of my defense/appeals than Jerome Buting. You’re the best. Period.” (Dane County client)

“Your advice and counsel were greatly appreciated. We appreciate you taking the time on your Sunday and evenings to help us. We are SO happy about the results! Thanks again.” (Waukesha County client)

“Thank you again … for everything. Five and one-half years of commitment, so many ups and downs and an outcome like that. You did a GREAT job.” (Waukesha County felony drug offense client)