Restitution in a Criminal Case

 Posted on December 00, 0000 in Criminal Defense

Restitution is a common punishment in federal criminal cases. A judge may order a convicted defendant to compensate the victims of his or her crimes. While we commonly think of victims as individuals, the government itself may also be a victim. In fact, as a recent decision by a federal appeals court in Cincinnati demonstrates, a criminal's restitution to the government may be significantly higher than that owed to an individual victim.

A Costly Error in Judgment

The crime in this case may not sound like much at first glance. The defendant pleaded guilty to a single charge of “making a false report of a boat in distress.”he is a pilot. According to the court opinion, one night in 2012, as part of an aviation training program, the defendant flew from Bowling Green, Ohio, to Cleveland and back again. During his return flight to Bowling Green, he thought he saw a flare arising from a watercraft on Lake Erie. The defendant, who was training to become a Coast Guard pilot, reported this apparent finding to the airport in Cleveland.

The airport instructed him to fly in for a closer look. When he did, the defendant found there was no boat or flare. However, afraid of seeming stupid, according to court records, he decided to fabricate a story that there was a disabled fishing boat with four persons aboard. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Canadian Armed Forces subsequently conducted a 21-hour search for the non-existent fishing boat and its crew.

According to the opinion, it took the defendant nearly a month to confess he had made up the report about the boat. A federal judge in Cleveland sentenced him to three months in prison and three years probation. She also ordered payment nearly half a million dollars in restitution—about $277,000 to the U.S. Coast Guard and $211,000 to the Canadian government—to cover the costs of their unnecessary search.

On appeal, the defendant challenged the judge's calculation of restitution and the fact he had to pay the Canadian government. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal and affirmed the judge's sentence. The 6th Circuit noted that technically, the law in this case did not provide for “restitution” as such, but rather made Kumar liable for “all costs” incurred by the Coast Guard. “This is an onerous burden to place on the shoulders of a young man,” the court said in its opinion, “but it is consonant with Congress's manifest intent to deal harshly with such hoaxes, in order to deter the diversion of critical resources away from true emergencies.”

Additional Restitution

As for the Canadians, while the false report law does not provide for compensation to foreign agencies, the appeals court said the trial judge was well within her discretion to require the additional restitution as a condition of the defendant's probation.

Restitution is just one issue to consider when facing federal criminal charges. That is why if you or someone you know is facing such charges, it is imperative you work with an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney today for a consultation.
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