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Court may consider SSI in restitution order

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The Indiana Supreme Court sided with the federal courts that have concluded courts may consider one’s Social Security income when determining how much a person may pay in restitution.

The issue arose in Rebecca D. Kays v. State of Indiana,No. 42S05-1107-CR-441, in which Rebecca Kays appealed the order that she pay more than $1,400 in restitution to her neighbor after Kays was convicted of misdemeanor battery. Kays claimed that her sole source of income is Social Security disability payments, and she lacked the ability to pay it. The trial court said she could pay it over a period of time.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, finding the trial court didn’t properly look into Kays’ ability to pay and failed to establish the manner and time of her payments. The judges also ordered the trial court to ignore her SSI in its determination of her ability to pay restitution because they held that a restitution order is an “other legal process” pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 407(a) which cannot be applied to Social Security benefits.

The justices agreed that the issue should be sent back to the trial court for a determination of Kays’ ability to pay and how she’d make those payments. But, they disagreed with the COA that SSI is exempt from consideration with regards to restitution payments.

Justice Robert Rucker noted there is scant case authority as to whether Social Security benefits can be taken into consideration to determine a fine or restitution, but the high court found several federal cases to be persuasive, including United States v. Smith, 47 F.3d 681, 684, (4th Cir. 1995).

“In concert with the reasoning of these opinions, we find nothing in 42 U.S.C. § 407(a) to prohibit a trial court from considering a defendant’s social security income when determining the ‘amount the person can or will be able to pay’ in restitution pursuant to Indiana Code section 35-38-2-2.3(a)(5),” Rucker wrote.  

 

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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