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August 03, 2004, 11:17
A defendant is in prison serving a capital life sentence. He has a stacked sentence for Aggravated Robbery that included a $ 10,000 fine.

Can the court order the fine paid immediately or must we wait until he serves his life sentence?

The defendant has over $ 30,000 in his inmate trust account.

Thanks for any thoughts. If you prefer to call (281) 756-1666.
August 03, 2004, 18:02
Martin Peterson
I am assuming that the court has not yet entered a judgment, but is merely considering whether to make a provision under 42.08 that the sentence in the new case "begin when the sentence in the preceding conviction has ceased to operate". The statute says both the sentence and execution thereof shall be "accordingly". That seems to imply the ability to have a writ of execution issued under 43.07 may not yet be ripe. "Sentence" seems to include all of the "punishment" assessed, which would apparently include the fine. See 42.02. Thus, the issue may resolve to whether the court can "split" the sentence under under 42.08, in other words, order only part of the punishment postponed. 42.08 does not seem to allow this, but I would certainly try it. Furthermore, 42.08 ends up conflicting with 42.09 sec. 1, which states "the defendant's sentence begins to run on the day it is pronounced". Maybe you could argue that provision permits fine collection efforts despite a 42.08 cumulation order. If nothing else, maybe you could serve a writ of garnishment or sequestration to preserve the funds until such time as the judgment goes into effect. While your situation is most unusual, I guess it points out the need for some changes in the statutes. Certainly it was not the intent of the Legislature to let a non-indigent avoid payment of the fine just because the court wanted to give added meaning to the second sentence (in terms of incarceration).
August 03, 2004, 19:50
Your posting begs the question, How did the inmate get $30,000 in his trust fund? I am betting he got a free lawyer for his trial and appeal. Perhaps the trial judge would like to order restitution of that expense. If the inmate got the money because of sale of murder memorabilia, perhaps the money could be seized.
August 04, 2004, 08:14
Tim Cole
I am intrigued by this. What will an inmate do with $30,000? Are there no limits on how much can be in such an account? What if the guy down in Galveston had been convicted? Could he put a couple billion dollars in his account and have the ability to pay off everyone in the system for favors? Maybe Martha Stewart would like to buy the unit where she resides and redecorate. Anyway, if the judgment says consecutive I think you are probably out of luck from that angle but there's got to be some way to get at this money.
August 04, 2004, 09:31
The investigation into the source of the funds is being investigated but, at this point, the money appears to be from family.

As far as I know, no limitations are put on the dollar amount. While this inmate's amount is unusual, his balance is not near the top. I have been told that four inmates are approaching the $ 100,000 mark.

Thanks for the replys and the phone calls for this unusual situation. Any other thoughts would be appreciated.

Hey Shannon, I know you will be busy, but how about some legislation saying we can collect this money anytime we find it if an inmate owes for fines, costs, fees even on stacked sentences?
August 05, 2004, 16:41
Stacey L. Brownlee
Sounds like good info to pass on to the victim's family if its public information (and what isn't these days). Surley one of our civil brethern would take a wrongful death suit to court with $30K just sitting there for the taking. I can't imagine that that account is judgement proof.
August 06, 2004, 08:09
Tim Cole
Good advice. Someone ought to see if there's a possibility of a lawsuit since there must be a victim. Also, where is it written that the prison system must allow an inmate access to all the money they can build up in these accounts. Why couldn't the prison system administratively put a new policy into place that simply limits the amount that can be put into one of these accounts? I would not think it would be a good policy to allow a situation where there are "rich" and "poor" inmates, relative to their prison accounts, inside the slammer.Anyone from prison administration listening? Is there some federal judge who says we must let these inmates have access to an unlimited amount of money in a prison account?