Supreme Court rules on restitution order deadlines

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] 5-4 in Dolan v. United States [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] that a district court may enter a restitution order beyond the time limit prescribed in 18 USC § 3664(d)(5) [text] if the sentencing court made clear prior to the deadline that restitution would be ordered. The petitioner, Brian Dolan, attacked a hitchhiker and was ordered to pay restitution to his victim 209 days after sentencing. He argued that the court's restitution order came after the deadline imposed by the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act and was therefore invalid. Justice Stephen Breyer, delivering the opinion of the court, indicated that the question before the court concerned the consequences of a missed deadline, which should was resolved by looking at the statutory language:

After examining the language, the context, and the purposes of the statute, we conclude that the provision before us [seeks speed by creating a time-related directive that is legally enforceable but does not deprive a judge or other public official of the power to take the action to which the deadline applies if the deadline is missed]. The fact that a sentencing court misses the statute's 90-day deadline, even through its own fault or that of the Government, does not deprive the court of the power to order restitution.
Chief Justice John Roberts dissented and was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy.

With its ruling, the court upheld the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit's holding [opinion, PDF] that "a tardy restitution order is not an invalid one." During oral arguments in April, counsel for Dolan argued [JURIST report] that, "[o]nce that 90-day period has run ... the district court loses the authority to impose restitution." Counsel for the US argued that the court may impose restitution after the 90-day period in certain circumstances.

 

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