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Washington Court Explains Grounds for Restitution

On Behalf of | Feb 13, 2019 | Firearms

If you are charged with a crime, it is important to understand the penalties you may face if you are convicted. There is a range of penalties that may be imposed following a conviction, including restitution. Restitution can only be ordered in circumstances, however.

A Washington Court of Appeals recently analyzed the grounds for ordering restitution in State v. Walls, a case in which the defendant objected to a restitution order following a conviction for theft of a weapon. If you are charged with a weapons crime, you should meet with a skilled Washington criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss the charges you face and possible defenses.

Facts Regarding the Defendant’s Alleged Crime

Reportedly, the defendant was served with a no-contact order for assaulting his wife. He then visited a friend and asked the friend if he could look at his guns. When the friend went into another room, the defendant stole one of the friend’s pistols. He then went to his estranged wife’s home and used the pistol to threaten his wife and her boyfriend. The defendant admitted he stole the pistol from his friend, after which the police placed the gun into evidence. The defendant was charged with several crimes, including theft of a firearm. He pled guilty to the charges and agreed to pay restitution as part of his plea agreement. The State subsequently requested restitution for the stolen pistol, to which the defendant objected. The trial court overruled the defendant’s objection and ordered the defendant to pay $440 in restitution. The defendant appealed.

Grounds for Restitution

Under Washington law, restitution is ordered whenever a defendant is convicted of a crime that caused injury to a person or damage to property. Restitution is only permitted in cases where the crime is causally connected to the loss.  A causal connection typically exists where the victim would not have suffered a loss if the crime was not committed. Notably, it is not required for the harm to be a foreseeable consequence of the crime. The aim of restitution is compensatory but it is also meant to be punitive.  As such, the court declined to engage in an overly technical analysis that would allow the defendant to avoid the punishment the restitution order was meant to impose.

The defendant averred that restitution should not be ordered because he was not responsible for the loss. Rather, the defendant argued, it was the police department’s policy to retain weapons involved in crimes that caused the loss. The court was not persuaded by this argument, noting that but for the defendant’s crimes the police would not have obtained the pistol. While it may not have been foreseeable that the police would keep the pistol, foreseeability was not required. As such, the court affirmed the trial court’s restitution order.

Meet with an Experienced Washington Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a weapons crime, you should meet with an experienced weapons charge defense attorney to assist you in formulating a defense. At The Law Offices of Smith and White, our seasoned defense attorneys will work diligently to help you pursue the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case. We can be reached at 253-363-8662 or through the online form to set up a meeting.