Go On, Take The Money and Run

I called a client today who is accused of stealing quite a bit of money. The prosecutor has made an offer which would require my client to repay the stolen money in exchange for a non-jail sentence.

I spoke to my client a bit about the plea before the holidays, and he was pretty non-committal about the amount of money he could come up with, or when he could pay it.

You see, most of my clients who steal money steal it for a very specific and very immediate purpose. Drug use, a debt, or just rent money to keep themselves afloat. None of my clients are stealing to pad their savings account. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure that it happens - look at those Enron guys - but the poor are generally looking for a more instant gratification.

So when I spoke to the client before the holidays, I just really wasn't in the mood to pry about how or where my client could up with the money, or to lecture him on how important it was to pay up so that he could avoid jail. Instead, I told him to put some thought into it and we'd talk about it more after the holidays.

Despite the big pink tree in my living room, it is indeed "after the holidays," so I called the client again to discuss the money. (Notice how I have to call him? Wouldn't you be so concerned about jail that you'd call your lawyer to follow up? Then again, you'd be so concerned about jail that you wouldn't steal the money in the first place, right?)

My client informed me that he does have a plan for getting the money: he expects to get his W2 from his job soon, then he will file taxes, and then he will wait for his refund, and then, depending on how much the refund is, he will be able to pay restitution. He is just one of many clients who will be able to make his case better after tax day.

Others will be able to pay their child support or their traffic tickets or their loved ones' bail.

Most people hate tax day. (Especially the aforementioned Enron guys.) But in my clients' world, where most get refunds, tax day is a lot like found-money day. Or, in some cases, pay-back-the-money-you-stole day.

And defense-attorney-can-relax-because-the-money-is-coming day.


  1. Oh Blonde, this just didn't go where I thought it would. When I was an LAS lawyer, I had a similar experience but through naievete, I just never thought about all the ways the client could pay back the money.
    So, I explained to the client that the more he could pay back the better the deal. A week later he was back with all the money in cash! I called the ADA and told him I had the money. The Assistant (who had far more experience than my 10 weeks) asked if I could come over right away with the client and take care of it. As I walked across the street to the courtroom with my client it suddenly dawned on me to ask how he found such a large sum so quickly. His first answer was too non committal. After a stronger push from me, he indicated that he had robbed a bank that morning... Needless to say we both figured out why the ADA was in such a rush. My client took off, against my advice, and I took the "restitution" to the courtroom, and all hell broke lose. I never forgot to ask that question again.

  2. Hmmm... maybe it's better not to know? I'm not sure.

    I have had cases where I've said to the prosecutor, "I'm sorry, but there's no way my client is coming up with that kind of money short of robbing a bank." I never thought I might be tipping him off to my client's future crimes.

  3. I had a client who stole roughly 250k from her employer over the years. Yes, she was able to post bond. Yes, she got a public defender. No, she couldn't come up with any cash to pay in restitution. Yes, she did go to prison. Yes, she got out not too longer afterwards and drives a much nicer car than me.


  4. Tax day is also "stay out of jail because I can make a payment on my child support arrearages" day.