High court overturns Arizona law capping restitution amounts

The Arizona Supreme Court on May 4 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, according to 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.

The case involved a defendant who 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 he Legislature in 2018 increased the $10,000 cap to $100,000 but said that change didn’t affect the basic issue before the court.

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