Court finds money may be deducted from prison inmates’ accounts to pay fines

Dec 8, 2004
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Maine
#1
PORTLAND, Maine — Lawyers learn early in law school that what’s really important often is in a footnote.

That was the case Tuesday when the Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously dismissed a Lewiston man’s challenge to the practice of deducting funds from inmates’ prison accounts to pay court fines because his appeal was not filed in a timely fashion.

In a footnote to the eight-page opinion, however, Justice Jon Levy wrote that if the court had ruled on the merits of the case, justices would have upheld the statute that allows up to 25 percent of the money in an inmate’s prisoner account to be deducted to pay back child support, restitution and-or court fines.

The case was argued in June before the state’s high court when it convened in Bangor.

Terry W. Chesnel, 56, of Lewiston was sentenced in July 2008 in Penobscot County Superior Court to five years in prison for continuing to drive after having his license revoked and for drunken driving, according to a brief filed in the case. In addition, he was ordered to pay $4,505 in fines, including surcharges.

During his incarceration, money has been deducted from his prison account to help pay the fine. As of April 21, a total of $1,595 had been collected toward Chesnel’s fines in that manner, according to a brief filed by Assistant District Attorney Susan Pope.

Chesnel, who was receiving about $200 a month from family and friends, objected to having 25 percent of his prison account taken out to pay the fines. He maintained that he did not have to begin paying fines until after his scheduled release on Oct. 8, 2013.

A Penobscot County judge last year denied his request to end the transfer of funds from his prison accounts because he did not have jurisdiction over the Department of Corrections, which falls under the executive branch of government.

Students at the University of Maine School of Law handled the appeal to the state supreme court for Chesnel.

Caitlin Fullerton of Portland maintained during oral arguments that the judge ordered Chesnel to begin paying his fine on Oct. 8, 2013, after his scheduled release.

“This case involves the wrongful infringement of executive power, represented by the [Maine Department of Corrections],” she told the justices.

Fullerton argued that Chesnel was not informed at sentencing or while incarcerated that his prison account could be garnished. The judge’s ruling that payment should begin on a specific date should have trumped the garnishing law, she argued.

“We’re certainly disappointed in the outcome,” Fullerton said Tuesday on behalf of her client. “We knew that jurisdiction would be the biggest issue in the case.”

Pope, who represented the state at oral arguments, said Tuesday she was pleased with the court’s decision.

“I think it’s a fair decision,” Pope said. “When the state is meeting all of a prisoner’s basic needs. including food, clothing, shelter and medical attention, an inmate should be obliged to pay what he owes, whether it’s in child support, restitution or court fines. Even if the inmate is not made of aware of it, the court has said it is legal.”
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CougarHunter

Lying causes cat piss smell.
Mar 2, 2006
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#2
How far is Maine behind? They've been doing that forever here. I worked a case where an I/M literally owed more than I make in 20 years. Good thing he's got double life, haha.
 

whiskeyguy

PR representative for Drunk Whiskeyguy.
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Jan 12, 2010
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#4
Who the fuck gets 5 years for driving without a license?!
Sounds like a pretty bad repeat drunk driver. Probably has 5+ on his record.

Terry W. Chesnel, 56, of Lewiston was sentenced in July 2008 in Penobscot County Superior Court to five years in prison for continuing to drive after having his license revoked and for drunken driving...
 
Jun 2, 2005
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Dallas
#6
I think it was just written badly. It makes it sound like his license was suspended for DWI, and he got 5 years for driving without a license. More than likely it was what you're saying, he already had 3-4 DWIs, was suspended with an interlock, and was caught drunk driving without the interlock.
 

Don the Radio Guy

G-Bb-A-D
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Mar 30, 2006
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#7
Does this mean the states will finally start giving the restitution money to victims?
 

Motor Head

HIGHWAY TRASH REMOVAL
Jan 23, 2006
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#8
Does this mean the states will finally start giving the restitution money to victims?
Each and every convicted felon should be on a chain gang, fixing streets, picking up trash, digging ditches and clearing weeds so we are ALL reimbursed for housing and feeding them. Wait, oh yeah.....physical labor is considered cruel and unusual punishment. We outsource everything else, maybe we should outsource all of our violent felons serving time to Guatemala or Mexico. Fuck, send them to China. The cocksuckers think American prisons are bad, go spend 25 years in a Thai prison.