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Commonwealth v. McCabe

Pennsylvania Supreme Court

December 22, 2021

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court untangled a messy knot involving ARD, problem-solving courts, restitution, and probation. The defendant was admitted into Veterans Treatment Court (“VTC”), a problem-solving court created by the county pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. § 916. To enter VTC, the defendant pled guilty, and sentencing was held in abeyance while he participated in the program. Soon after his plea, the lower court held a hearing and set restitution at $35,000. At the defendant’s sentencing, the lower court told him that he had “done a remarkable job”,  “served as a role model”, and was “compliant with everything that we ask of you”. But he had not paid full restitution. So the lower court sentenced him to two years of probation. The defendant appealed, claiming that the charges should have been dismissed upon completing the program. He argued that problem-solving courts created under Section 916 were governed by Chapter 3 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure, which cover ARD. And under ARD rules, a court cannot fault a defendant for failing to pay restitution that he has no reasonable means to pay. The defendant argued that if Chapter 3 did not govern, then the only other authority to impose restitution came from 18 Pa.C.S. §§ 9763 or 1106 as a condition of probation or as a condition of a sentence. Since he was not on probation or serving a sentence in VTC, the defendant reasoned that he could not be compelled to pay restitution. The Supreme Court disagreed. It ruled that the restitution order was made as part of the subsequent sentencing hearing. And the lower court properly sentenced him to probation based on the seriousness of the crime, not the defendant’s inability to pay.

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