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Washington State Waits Too Long to Collect Restitution

Division 2 of the Washington State Court of Appeals has vacated a restitution order imposed in a criminal case because the state took no action to secure payment for over 10 years.

On June 26, 1986, Daniel Sigo pled guilty to attempted 1st degree theft in the Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma, Washington. On August 19, 1986, that court sentenced him to 93 days in jail and released him the same day with credit for time served. The court also ordered him to pay over $7,000 in restitution, but the state made no effort to collect it or to get an extension of time to do so.

On June 25, 2004, Sigo filed a motion to dismiss the restitution order in the Superior Court under RCW 9.94A.753(4). Under that statute, for crimes committed after July 1, 1985 but before July 1, 2000, the court only retains jurisdiction to collect restitution for 10 years after entry of the judgment and sentence, or for 10 years after the prisoner?s release from total confinement, whichever is longer. If asked to extend the collection period before expiration of the 10 years, the court may do so. Otherwise the court?s jurisdiction lapses and the restitution order becomes void under Personal Restraint of Sappenfield, 138 Wn.2d 588 (2001). The superior court denied Sigo?s motion to dismiss, and he appealed.

On appeal, Division 2 found that Sigo had been released on August 19, 1986 and that the state had not sought an extension of the collection period. Thus, the superior court had lost its jurisdiction to enforce the restitution order 10 years thereafter. On that basis, Division 2 reversed the superior court?s denial of Sigo?s motion to dismiss and dissolved the restitution order. See: State v. Sigo, 131 Wash.App. 1013 (Wash.App. Div. 2, 2006) (unpublished).

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Related legal case

State v. Sigo


No. 32805-4-II


January 18, 2006, Filed


COUNSEL: For Appellant(s): Lise Ellner, Attorney at Law, Vashon, WA.

For Respondent(s): P. Grace Kingman, Attorney at Law, Tacoma, WA.

JUDGES: Authored by Elaine Houghton. Concurring: Marywave Van Deren, J. Robin Hunt.


HOUGHTON, J. -- Daniel Thomas Sigo appeals the denial of his motion to dismiss an order of restitution that the trial court imposed in 1986. He argues that the order expired in 1996 and became void. A commissioner of this court referred Sigo's appeal to us as a panel of judges. Concluding that the trial court erred, we reverse its denial of Sigo's motion.


On June 26, 1986, Sigo pleaded guilty to attempted first degree theft. On August 19, 1986, the trial court sentenced him to 93 days of confinement, with credit for 93 days served, and to 12 months of community supervision. The trial court ordered him to pay court costs of $365, a victim assessment of $70, and restitution of $7,081.38.

[*2] On June 25, 2004, Sigo filed a motion to dismiss the order of restitution. In response, the State conceded that the court's jurisdiction to collect the restitution expired in August 1996 and that the court file did not contain an order to extend its jurisdiction. But the State argued that the expiration of the court's jurisdiction only had the effect of limiting the court's jurisdiction to proceed criminally against Sigo under the current cause number. It contended that the expiration of the order did not diminish his payment obligation in any way. It further argued that the court could not dismiss the order of restitution because Sigo was no longer under the court's jurisdiction. The trial court denied Sigo's motion and he appeals.


Sigo argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the restitution order because the court's jurisdiction to enforce the order expired in 1996. The State again concedes that "[t]he court's jurisdiction to collect the restitution expired in 1996 because the court did not order an extension . . . ." Respondent's Br. at 4. But it again argues that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the order of restitution and so was [*3] without authority to grant Sigo's motion to dismiss. 1 We disagree.


1 For the first time on appeal, the State also argues that (1) Sigo's motion was inappropriate, insufficient, and untimely, and (2) the restitution order carried other legal ramifications. "A party may present a ground for affirming a trial court decision which was not presented to the trial court if the record has been sufficiently developed to fairly consider the ground." RAP 2.5(a). That is not the case here and we decline to address the State's additional arguments.

The trial court's authority to order restitution is purely statutory. State v. Hennings, 129 Wn.2d 512, 519, 919 P.2d 580 (1996). Washington's restitution statutes are to be broadly construed in order to carry out the legislative intent of providing restitution. Hennings, 129 Wn.2d at 519. But if the language of a statute is clear and unequivocal, the court must apply the language as written. Duke v. Boyd, 133 Wn.2d 80, 87, 942 P.2d 351 (1997). [*4] Washington's restitution statute, RCW 9.94A.753(4), 2 provides in pertinent part:

For the purposes of this section, for an offense committed [after July 1, 1985 but] prior to July 1, 2000, the offender shall remain under the court's jurisdiction for a term of ten years following the offender's release from total confinement or ten years subsequent to the entry of the judgment and sentence, whichever period ends later. Prior to the expiration of the initial ten-year period, the superior court may extend jurisdiction under the criminal judgment an additional ten years for payment of restitution.

Therefore, "[i]f a court's jurisdiction over a restitution order lapses . . . that order becomes void . . . ." In the Matter of the Personal Restraint of Sappenfield, 138 Wn.2d 588, 594, 980 P.2d 1271 (1999) (interpreting former RCW 9.94A.142, recodified as RCW 9.94A.753 (2001)).


2 RCW 9.94A.753 is retroactive and applies to Sigo's order of restitution. State v. Shultz, 138 Wn.2d 638, 640, 980 P.2d 1265 (1999), cert. denied, 529 U.S. 1066, 120 S. Ct. 1672, 146 L. Ed. 2d 481 (2000).

[*5] The trial court sentenced Sigo on August 19, 1986, and released him from total confinement on that day. The trial court never extended its jurisdiction over its order of restitution. Thus, under RCW 9.94A.753(4), the order of restitution expired on August 19, 1996, and became void. When Sigo filed his motion to dismiss the order of restitution on June 25, 2004, the order was void.

Nothing in RCW 9.94A.753(4) supports the State's position that the trial court lacked authority to grant Sigo's motion. The language of that statute only limits the trial court's jurisdiction to enforce an order of restitution. It does not limit the trial court's authority to grant a motion to dismiss an order of restitution once it becomes void. Further, the trial court had the authority under CrR 7.8(b)(4) to relieve Sigo from the order of restitution.

Sigo's order of restitution expired in 1996 and became void. Therefore, the trial court erred when it denied Sigo's motion in 2004 to dismiss that order.

We reverse the trial court's denial of Sigo's motion to dismiss the order of restitution.

A majority of the panel having determined that this opinion will not be printed [*6] in the Washington Appellate Reports, but will be filed for public record pursuant to RCW 2.06.040, it is so ordered.

Houghton, J.

We concur:

Hunt, J.

Van Deren, A.C.J.