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Defense win on return of bond funds and restitution for dismissed and read in charges

State v. James A. Jones, 2021 WI App 15; case activity (including briefs)

Sometimes friends or relatives post bail so that a loved one charged with a crime can be released. This published decision holds that when charges are dismissed and read in at sentencing, and the court doesn’t order restitution on those charges, the bond money must be returned to the payors. This rule applies even to global plea deals where the defendant pleads “no contest” to and is ordered to pay restitution on some charges, but other charges are dismissed and read in without a restitution order.

The State charged Jones with crimes in multiple cases. As part of a global plea deal, he agreed to pay restitution on charges to which he pled “no contest.”  He signed a plea questionnaire/waiver of rights form indicating that he could be required to pay restitution on read-in charges. However, the sentencing court did not order restitution for those charges.

Jones’ mother had posted a cash bond in a case that was dismissed and read in. His friend had posted a cash bond to be divided among three other cases. The charges in one of those cases was also dismissed and read in. The State sought to use the bond money for the dismissed and read-in cases to pay restitution to the victims of the cases in which Jones pled “no contest.” For support, the State offered a convoluted reading of §973.20 and §969.03(4)‘s general policy of prioritizing compensation to crime victims. Relying on the plain language of § 969.03(5), the court of appeals sided with Jones.

Section 969.03(5) requires that “[i]f the complaint against the defendant has been dismissed or if the defendant has been acquitted, the entire sum deposited [under § 969.03(1)(d)] shall be returned.”

¶31 Contrary to the complex interpretive efforts necessary to reach the State’s conclusion, Jones offers a straightforward and sensible interpretation of WIS. STAT. § 969.03(5), which we adopt. When all of the counts in a criminal complaint are dismissed and read in, and no restitution is ordered on any of those counts at the sentencing for the crime or crimes of conviction in separately charged cases, that complaint has been “dismissed” for purposes of § 969.03(5). This interpretation harmonizes the relevant statutes and achieves a reasonable result in which funds that are placed at risk to secure the defendant’s appearance in a particular case may be applied toward restitution on that case, but not toward other, unrelated cases.

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