Monday, August 3, 2015

Oh Brother!

Oops, they did it again
Sometimes when I read cases freshly minted by the courts, I think, "you gotta be kidding me!"  or "you came to this decision, how?!"  Take, for instance the case I read today in the Daily Appellate Report, People v. Gross, 2015 DJDAR 8573. 

Seems, once upon a time, Rickey Gross pled guilty to two counts of second degree burglary and possession  of a destructive device.  At the time of sentencing, the court, in addition to sentencing Mr. Gross to 5+ years, ordered him to pay various fines and fees as well as restitution to his victims totaling $34,826.59.  That's a sizable lump of cash, to be sure!

Fast forward a few years and Mr. Gross does his time and is set free (with the cloud of having to pay off his fees and fines and restitution to his victims to the tune of $34,826.59 plus, I suspect, any interest accruing to that point).  Being a slick sort of guy, Mr. Gross tried an end run around the system and filed a motion to be relieved of his restitution obligation and for a refund of funds paid, to date.  The gall of some people, right?

Basically, what Mr. Gross is saying is that because I'm no longer a criminal (having "paid" my debt to society what with incarceration, and all), I should no longer be held to pay my fines and fees (and, subsequently, receive back all that I have paid into).  That would be a pretty slick trick, if it worked.

Up to this point, I'm rooting for the system.  Mr. Gross did the crime, he should do the time (and pay for his crime).  Yeah, I was rooting for the "justice" system up and until I got to the last paragraph of the decision which read:
"Unlike restitution fines, direct victim restitution is imposed to protect public safety and welfare, not to punish the defendant, and thus...the obligation to make restitution to the victims does not qualify as a penalty or disability from which a defendant is relieved..."
Basically, the spin the California Appellate Court said was that even though you did your time, the fund has nothing to do with punishment or your sentence - it's to protect the public.  Wait, what?!  Of course, it's to punish someone (it's supposed to punish the defendant so that they think twice before committing the crime again you #%!@#%@#%!  

Instead of just saying something like restitution goes hand-in-hand with the underlying conviction and be done with it, the court chose to obfuscate the issue and hand in a Roberts-esque decision.  Dang but obfuscated decisions like this only open the door to future bonehead litigation (which, I suspect, is a goal of courts anyway since a portion of all filing fees go to the judges retirement fund).