Saturday, April 10, 2010

Payment Plan Available

United States v. Kyles, No. 06-4196-cr (2d Cir. April 2, 2010) (Miner, Katzmann, Raggi, CJJ)

In 1993, defendant Kyles received a long bank robbery sentence, along with a $4,133 restitution order. The court did not set a payment schedule, and instead (illegally) delegated that task to the Probation Department, which never acted. In 1998, the district court amended the restitution order by directing that Kyles pay $2 per month while incarcerated. Kyles did not appeal that order.

In 2006, the district court amended the order again, this time raising the monthly payments from $2 to $25. After much back-and-forth over whether the district court had authority to order this and Kyles’ ability to pay, the court amended the order again, this time specifying that Kyles’ payments should be “increased in accordance with the guidelines of the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program.”

Kyles appealed, arguing that the district court lacked the authority to modify his restitution schedule in this way. The court disagreed. Although a district court’s ability to alter an imposed sentence is quite limited, here the court found that an order modifying the payment schedule, but not the amount of the restitution itself, did not alter the sentence.

Kyles also made a double jeopardy argument. The Double Jeopardy Clause protects the “finality of criminal judgments” and hence prohibits “alternations to sentences carrying a legitimate expectation of finality.” But here since the order altered only the payment schedule, Kyles had no “legitimate expectation of finality.”

Third, Kyles argued that the district court lacked the statutory authority to change the payment schedule while he was incarcerated. The circuit disagreed, finding an inherent power to do so in the statutory provision that gives district courts the “equitable authority” to order payments over time instead of immediate payment of the whole amount. “Inherent in equitable authority is the power to adjust orders when the circumstances informing them change.”

Finally, the court agreed with Kyles that delegating to the Bureau of Prisons the power to set the amount of restitution payments was illegal. The court remanded the case for a imposition of restitution order that specifies the amount Kyles must pay each month and makes clear that prison officials cannot depart from that order.



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