Judge: York County's restitution policy is constitutional

Written by Dylan Segelbaum, York Daily Record | Oct 19, 2016 10:58 AM

Photo by York Daily Record

(York) -- A policy from the York County District Attorney's Office requiring that people pay all but $1,000 in restitution before starting a court program that could allow them to have criminal charges expunged if they complete a set of conditions is constitutional, a judge has ruled.

In a one-page order, Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook on Oct. 13 denied a motion that asked her to force the District Attorney's Office to accept a man into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program. The reasons for the decision are not outlined in court documents.

Assistant Public Defender Katy Nixon filed the motion in July, writing that people were being turned away from the ARD Program "simply because they are poor." The rule, she argued, created an "impermissible distinction" between those who have money, and individuals who do not.

Nixon is representing Nikolos Gingrich, 25, of York, who's charged with theft and receiving stolen property.

Between August and November 2015, Gingrich pocketed money from a smoke shop where he worked by changing the amount listed on deposit slips for the business 19 times, York Area Regional police said. He was initially accepted into the program, but did not show up for court because he would have had to pay $590 of the $1,590 that he owed in restitution.

Meanwhile, the District Attorney's Office said it can require people to initially pay all but $1,000 in restitution, and that the policy was put in place because those who owe a lot of money often do not succeed in ARD. Many times, restitution is mandated by law, too.

It was not immediately clear whether the ruling will be appealed.

Nixon declined to be interviewed. Through a spokesman, District Attorney Tom Kearney also declined to discuss the decision.

Gingrich could not be reached. He's next scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 12.

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

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