What You Can (and Cannot) Be Ordered to Pay For as Part of Restitution in a California Domestic Violence Case

When you are accused of certain crimes, you face the possibility of multiple different forms of punishment. For some crimes, you may potentially be at risk of being ordered to serve a prison sentence and to pay restitution to a victim. In order to face the possibility of restitution, though, the law has to authorize it. All of these legal and procedural details point out the importance of having a skilled and knowledgeable San Francisco criminal defense attorney on your side to use the law to defend you to the fullest extent possible.

One defendant facing a restitution issue recently was a man named Steven from Imperial County. The facts behind Steven’s case began as, unfortunately, many domestic violence matters do. Both Steven and his wife Veronica had been drinking in the garage. The drinking was followed by an argument, and the argument was followed by the husband grabbing the wife by the throat and bashing her head against the garage floor so hard that it cracked her skull. The gash in her head required seven staples.

The prosecution charged Steven with domestic violence in violation of Section 273.5 of the California Penal Code. He pleaded no contest, ultimately receiving a sentence of three years in prison. The law also allows the court to order a convicted defendant to pay monetary restitution. In this case, the wife sought restitution for a new cell phone, repairs to the washer/dryer, and $2,500 in medical bills, which collectively totaled more than $3,000. She also asked for another $14,000 in restitution to cover an alarm system and security windows. The trial judge ordered Steven to pay the full $17,000 in restitution.

Steven appealed, and he won. The reason for the defendant’s success was the exact wording of the restitution statute and another statute. Section 1202.4(f)(3)(J) of the Penal Code allows a victim to recover restitution for security expenses, but the law makes this type of award conditional. In order for a victim to be eligible for this type of restitution, the defendant in the case must have been convicted of a “violent felony” as that term is defined in Section 667.5(c) of the Penal Code.

The list of crimes contained within Section 667.5(c) includes murder, voluntary manslaughter, all crimes punishable by death, rape, child molestation, certain crimes of sexual violence, and “mayhem.” The list did not include domestic violence in violation of Section 273.5(a). Under the clear terms of the law, then, the court wasn’t entitled to force the husband to pay for the wife’s upgraded home security under an order of restitution.

There are many facets to putting on a strong defense. In any criminal defense, the goal is to avoid convictions of crimes that have not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt and punishments not authorized by the law. The diligent San Francisco criminal defense lawyers at Uthman Law Office have been providing detail-oriented and reliable service to our criminal defense clients for many years. Attorney David Uthman has over 20 years of experience as a litigation attorney and almost a decade of experience as a police officer. Put our knowledge of the law and the system to work for you. Call us today at (415) 556-9200 to schedule your FREE initial consultation to get the help you need.

More blog posts:

How Very Small Details Can Potentially Make a Very Big Difference in Your California Criminal Case, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer Blog, April 6, 2018

Immigrant’s 2001 California Misdemeanor Plea Deal Proves Harmful in Deportation Case, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer Blog, March 13, 2018

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