ILNews

Restitution continues beyond probation period

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed today that trial courts must inquire about a defendant's ability to pay when they order restitution as a condition of probation or a suspended sentence and a restitution obligation continues beyond the end of a probationary period.

However, in Jeffrey Pearson v. State of Indiana, No. 45S03-0712-CR-574, the high court affirmed the trial court's order for Pearson to pay at least $150 a month in restitution as a condition of his probation even though the trial court didn't inquire about his ability to pay.

On appeal, Pearson only raised the issue of whether the trial court erred in ordering him to pay more than $50,000 in restitution during his one-year probationary period without determining if he could pay that amount.

Pearson was a police officer in the East Chicago Police Department and served as treasurer of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #59. When two widows complained to the lodge they hadn't received death benefits following their husbands' deaths, an internal investigation showed that funds were missing.

Pearson agreed to plead guilty to a count of conversion to have a felony theft charge dismissed. He was sentenced to one year in the Lake County Jail, suspended and served on probation, and ordered to make restitution to the victims. The state introduced evidence to show Pearson should pay more than $50,000 in restitution; Pearson argued he should only have to pay $300, but introduced no evidence to support his amount.

The trial court accepted the terms of the plea agreement and without making a finding to his ability to pay, sentenced Pearson to pay $52,685.97 in restitution in increments of at least $150 a month.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court order because it failed to determine his ability to pay and remanded the cause to the trial court.

In the unanimous opinion authored by Justice Robert Rucker, the high court does hold that a trial court is required to ask about a defendant's ability to pay when it orders restitution as a condition of probation or of a suspended sentence. The reason behind this is to prevent indigent defendants from being imprisoned for violating probation as a result of failing to pay the restitution, wrote Justice Rucker.

Pearson's argument in appeal is an assumption his obligation to pay back the restitution ends when his probationary period stops, but Indiana statute and previous rulings show that the expiration of a probationary period doesn't terminate the defendant's obligation to make restitution to a crime victim, he wrote, citing Indiana Code Section 35-50-5-3(f) and Savage v. State, 655 N.E.2d 1223, 1225 (Ind. 1995).

The Supreme Court reinstated the trial court's order, finding that because Pearson didn't challenge the amount of restitution or his ability to pay the $150 a month, there isn't a need to remand to the trial court.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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