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Michigan Supreme Court overturns restitution order against thief

By Daniel T. Geherin

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that a man cannot be ordered to pay restitution for crimes he was not actually charged with.

Court rules convicts cannot be ordered to pay restitution for crimes they are not charged with

The Michigan Supreme Court has reduced the restitution amount that a convicted thief was ordered to pay and, in so doing, has set an important precedent in calculating restitution amounts, according to 9&10 News. The man was charged with the theft of air conditioners and ordered to pay $64,000 to his victims, plus another $94,000 to victims he was suspected of stealing from.

Suspected, but not charged

While the man in this case was suspected of stealing the air conditioners from the victims mentioned in the $94,000 portion of the restitution order, he was never actually charged with those crimes. He was only charged with, and convicted for, the thefts associated with the $64,000 portion of the restitution order.

A 15-year-old accomplice had accused the man of being involved with the additional air conditioner thefts, but prosecutors decided not to charge him with those crimes, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer. Nonetheless, a Calhoun County judge ordered the man to pay restitution for the crimes he was both convicted for and merely suspected of committing.

Supreme Court overturns order

In a six to one decision, however, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the man should only be required to pay restitution for crimes he was actually convicted of committing. The man will still have to pay the $64,000 portion of the restitution order.

This ruling overturns a landmark 1997 ruling that found that convicts could be ordered to pay restitution even if the crimes associated with that restitution were not the reason for the conviction. In its latest decision, the Supreme Court decided that that ruling itself violates Michigan law. Only one justice dissented from the ruling, arguing that the Crime Victim's Rights Act allowed for restitution even if there is no conviction. Regardless of the decision, prosecutors acknowledged that the man would be unlikely to be able to pay the restitution order, regardless of the amount.

Criminal charge

As the above case shows, a criminal charge can have serious repercussions that go well beyond jail time and a criminal record. While this recent ruling will ease the financial burden for some people who would otherwise have been ordered to pay large restitution amounts, it does not do away with restitution orders outright.

Avoiding a large restitution order is just one of the many reasons why anybody who has been charged with a criminal offense should consult with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer can use his legal experience to fight for his client's rights and make sure that his client is treated fairly and respectfully by the legal system.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, and want the help of local, experienced and dedicated criminal defense lawyer in Ann Arbor, please call Dan and his team at GLG Michigan.