A woman pleaded no contest earlier this year to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. She was driving when her car struck a motorcyclist, killing him.
As part of her sentence, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ordered the woman to pay more than $22,000 to cover funeral and burial costs for the victim’s family. The defendant claimed she had a fixed income of $1,300 a month and couldn’t pay.
Krystyna Dailey, a paralegal with the District Attorney’s Restitution Enhancement Program, wasn’t sold. She obtained subpoenas for the woman’s bank and other financial records. Dailey learned the woman had much more money than she admitted.
In November, a check for the full amount of restitution was paid to the victim’s family.
This is the type of work the Restitution Enhancement Program does daily. Since 2008, the office has obtained 6,860 restitution orders totaling more than $186 million.
The office has 15 dedicated paralegals working to assist victims in obtaining court-ordered restitution. Restitution can cover a host of financial burdens that victims incur – medical bills, lost wages, loss of property and, yes, funeral and burial costs.
Under the California Constitution and state law, victims have a right to restitution. When a crime occurs and a defendant is convicted, a judge must order the defendant to pay.
“Our paralegals treat this like a mission,” said Lydia Bodin, the program’s deputy-in-charge. “They work very hard to make sure that these orders are paid when we know the defendant has the means.”
The program staff also work on legislation addressing restitution. When a recent criminal justice reform bill upended the ability to collect restitution on some defendants, the District Attorney’s Office jumped in and worked to successfully address the oversight.