Jim Porter: Crime victims may recover losses from offending criminal
February 12, 2015
Those of you unfortunate enough to have been a victim of a crime need to know — you have a constitutional right to have your losses paid for by the defendant who committed the crime against you.
DRUNKEN DRIVER INJURES NINE
Rick Allen Walker drove his pickup truck the wrong way on the Antelope Valley Freeway. Walker hit eight different vehicles carrying a total of nine passengers. After he consumed alcohol and methamphetamines.
The People (the prosecutor) charged Walker with four counts of DUI causing injury and specifically named four of the nine people he hit as victims.
Walker pled "no contest" which is essentially guilty without admission. He was sentenced to six years in state prison and ordered to pay restitution to four persons — two who had been named in the prosecutor's charging document and two who had not been named but who Walker conceded he injured.
Stay with me, there's a point here.
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BAD GUY APPEALS
Walker appealed with his free lawyer arguing he should only have been required to make restitution for the two people the prosecutor named but not the other two who were injured but not part of the prosecutor's charging documents.
Why the big fuss? Walker won't have money to pay anyone anyway.
RESTITUTION FOR CRIME VICTIMS
Finally, we come to the part of this article I want to bring to everyone's attention.
Crime victims have a constitutional right to seek restitution for the losses they suffer from the defendant who inflicted those losses. That language is right out of the California Constitution.
In fact, the Legislature requires courts to order the defendant to make restitution to the victim in every case in which a crime victim has suffered economic loss as a result of the defendant's conduct.
Penal Code Section 1202.4 spells out the details. There seems to be a $10,000 limit per victim but overall this is good law — even though most criminals who are drunk and high on methamphetamines won't have any assets.
By the way, there's a whole different body of law in the Government Code that sets up a $10,000 Restitution Fund for victims of crimes. So, two avenues for crime victims.
Remember these are crime victims not accident victims, so if someone "T-bones" you but does not commit a crime, he or she will be civilly responsible, but there will not necessarily be a Restitution Fund or court order to make restitution to crime victims.
The Court of Appeal had no problem making a decision favoring the prosecutor and crime victims, holding the trial court could require restitution for all victims in a single incident of DUI causing injury for which the defendant was convicted, whether or not those victims were named in the original charging document filed by the prosecutor.
I doubt very much that Rick Allen Walker's crime victims will ever recover from him despite the court order but they may recover from the Restitution Fund.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee, Tahoe City and Reno, Nevada. Jim's practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOAs, contracts, personal injury, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://www.portersimon.com.
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