Arizona Supreme Court Overturns Law Capping Restitution Amounts

By Jill Ryan
Associated Press and Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Wednesday, May 5, 2021 - 7:57am
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The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a state law limiting restitution awards for economic losses caused by certain criminal driving offenses that cause another person to be killed or seriously injured.

The 2006 law imposing a $10,000 cap on criminal restitution in those cases violated a right to prompt and full restitution under Victims' Bill of Rights protections in the Arizona Constitution, the court ruling.

The justices upheld a Court of Appeals decision that reversed a Maricopa County Superior Court judge’s ruling that set a man’s restitution order at $10,000, down from the over $61,000 amount set by a Phoenix Municipal Court judge.

This case involves Vivek Patel who was convicted of failing to yield when turning left, resulting in a crash that resulted in a serious injury to someone else.

Nothing in the Victims' Bill of Rights affects civil traffic citations.

But the nature of this accident made Patel guilty of violating a separate 2006 law that makes it a criminal offense to break certain traffic laws if they result in an accident that injures or kills someone else.

Patel had appealed the municipal court's order. Prosecutors then appealed the Superior Court order.

Patel argued that the constitutional provision required prompt restitution but didn't specify full restitution, but the Supreme Court said that meaning was understood.

The Supreme Court also noted that the Legislature in 2018 increased the $10,000 cap to $100,000 but said that change didn't affect the basic issue before the court.