Burden of Proving Restitution Lies With the Prosecution, Not the Defense

Filed under: Criminal Law, News Tags: by Steven F. Fairlie @ May 25, 2010

In an unanimous (3-0) panel decision the Superior Court has just issued a decision reversing an order of restitution where the Commonwealth presented no evidence to support the alleged amount and the Trial Judge placed the burden on the Defendant to prove why the amount was not accurate. The facts were that Christopher Atanasio pled guilty to simple assault on Donald Eisenhart and pled nolo contendre to simple assault on Heather Souder, who sustained a punch to the face while trying to break up the attack on Eisenhart. Souder sought medical treatment for a broken ankle three days after the incident.
After Atanasio was sentenced to state prison, a hearing was held on the $3,000 claim of medical expenses for the ankle fracture. The Commonwealth failed to produce any witnesses or evidence either at sentencing or the Sentence Modification hearing on the extent or causation of the claimed injury, and the Court placed the burden on the Defense to show why the claimed amount of restitution was unreasonable. Atanasio asserted that due process was violated by the trial court demanding he provide evidence to support his challenge and not requiring any evidence from the prosecution. In overturning the Order, the Superior Court agreed that the burden of proving entitlement to restitution lies with the prosecution.

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