How the federal government seeks more than just prison time:
“I’ve done my time. Now the government wants my money. Will I ever be able to get my life on track?”
As opposed to asset forfeiture, federal restitution is a punishment objective designed to repay crime victims as opposed to enriching the Government. It is frequently a part of federal sentences that defendant will owe a staggering amount of money after their penal sentence is complete. The authority for the issuance and enforcement of these debts can be found in 18 U.S.C. 3663, 3663a, 3664 and 28 U.S.C. 3202.
Understand that the collection of restitution is a powerful weapon for the U.S. Government. For example, a restitution debt’s statute of limitations dwarfs many serious crimes. While crimes such as burglary and aggravated assault often carry limitations periods between 3 and 7 years, collection efforts for criminal restitution can be made 20 years after a federal convicts release from federal prison.
For example, it is not at all uncommon for someone who committed embezzlement 10 years ago (and who got out of prison 8 years ago) to receive demands for garnishment of their wages. Worse, such demands are often sent to that person’s employers. Or the Government can place liens upon residences, and even foreclose on residential properties, up to 20 years after release.
Even more surprising is that restitution collection efforts are controlled to some degree by each state’s property laws. In other words, in community property states such as Texas, law abiding spouses who were never charged can be subject to wage garnishment and property liens upon their residences based upon the crimes of their spouses. For those tempted to file a phantom divorce to avoid these consequences, you could be prosecuted for fraud.
To be fair, such prosecutions are rare. However, significant collection efforts upon spousal wages are quite common.
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It is also important to know that traditional debt collection exemptions, such as homestead exemptions, do not apply to restitution cases. In addition, the Government is entitled to bring proceedings designed to gather as much financial information as possible so that it can identify, seize, and keep a convict’s assets. For example, federal Financial Litigation Units (FLU) often run Equifax reports and issue subpoenas so that the Government can learn where convicts, or their spouses, keep bank accounts and what assets they have. Also, FLU prosecutors can send financial disclosure packets to convicts which ask for detailed asset and debt information. If the Government is not satisfied that a person is being candid, the Government is entitled to request a deposition forcing that person to speak about their finances under oath.
Obviously, these efforts culminate in the Government seeking garnishments that force employers to withhold up to 25% of a spouse’s or convict’s discretionary income. Keep in mind that the Government considers all income that is not withheld for federal taxes as discretionary. When it comes to non-income property, the Government can take up to 100% of assets such as retirement accounts, inherited property, automobiles, and homes.
Ultimately, the concept that a person’s debt to society is fully paid when he or she gets out of prison is often not true in federal cases. With the help of an experienced Restitution Resolution attorney, however, there may be light at the end of the tunnel. If you have paid your debt to society but are still paying money back to the Government, call 817-203-2220 for representation in your restitution resolution case anywhere in the country.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Tax Credits