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Probation officer setting me up for failure and possible prison

Lansing, MI |

I have a restitution case in which I was ordered to pay $500 a mos. after talking to my probation officer she said pay what you can on a monthly basis to show the judge you are making an effort, I received a probation violation for not making $500 payments monthly. The judge told me if I did not start making $500 payments monthly to bring my toothbrush next time because I was going to prison. I have complied with the judges order, know I got in the mail failure to make restitution payments, this was reported to the judge. It takes me the whole month to save this money as I only make $9 an hour, it shows on my receipt I made the payment on the last day of the month on there online web site yet it was not posted for 2 to 3 days. I don't want to go to prison, what should I do

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Attorney answers 4


Ask the judge to modify your monthly restitution payment taking into consideration your modest income. Some effort will always look better than no effort. Explain that you are doing your best to make a monthly payment and that if you go to jail or prison you will not be able to pay anything. You can also request the court to appoint to an attorney to represent you in this matter.


you really need to hire a good criminal defense attorney. We do not live in a debtor's prison society. The probation officer must show that you are willfully refusing to pay restitution that's a very high standard. You need good representation to show the judge that you are paying as much as possible. And that your failure to make the $500 a month is not willful.


I suggest talking to a local attorney or public defender who can file a motion to modify the payment plan. The ACLU has been doing a lot of work across the country on debtor's prisons. If you google "In for a Penny" and ACLU you will find a report that was created by the ACLU that talks about each state and their ability to jail you for non-payment.

Attorney Chris Beck
Beck Law Office, L.L.C.
1370 North Fairfield Rd.
Suite C
Beavercreek, Ohio 45432
(937)426-4000 phone

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My colleagues above are correct. Criminal restitution, unlike a civil judgment, is partially based upon your ability to pay. If you are honestly trying to honor your obligations, but are unable, then you should not be in trouble.

Communication is key. I tell my clients to stay in close communication with their probation agents. Let him/her know if you're having difficulties. As long as they don't feel like you're jerking them around, you'll have fewer problems.

Bottom line: you need an attorney to help you explain your circumstances. If you can not afford one, be sure to ask the court to appoint one for you.

Good luck.

Please note by answering this question there is no attorney-client relationship formed. I am not your attorney. This answer is meant to be for general informational purposes. Your case has specific nuances that goes beyond what you wrote and what I answered and you must speak directly with counsel to advise you of your rights.