The San Mateo County Restitution Court started in November of 2016, with a mission to help victims receive restitution that is due to them, as a result of their victimization. This is a collaborative program with the Probation Department, District Attorney’s Office, Private Defender Program, and San Mateo County Superior Court. The defendant, a deputy district attorney, an attorney for the defendant, a probation officer and an advocate from the Victim Services Unit of the District Attorney’s Office come before a judge to review the offender’s assets and ability to pay. Together, this group worked to form what is currently a vibrant and successful collaborative court, and the only collaborative court that is targeted to help victims, rather than just the defendants.
Probation began identifying offenders on supervised probation who owe more than $5,000 to one or more private citizens and were not making satisfactory payments. Probation then assigned a Court Officer to handle all restitution matters in Restitution Court. It is the responsibility of the Restitution Court Officer to collect financial compensation to the victims by establishing monthly payment plans with each defendant and monitoring those payments. If the defendant is not making the monthly payments then the Court Officer orders the defendant to appear in Court to address his non-compliance.
Deputy Probation Officer (DPO) Michael Davis helped with the initial phase of Restitution Court and DPO Michael Ulicki became the Court Officer for Restitution Court several months later. DPO Ulicki continues to pursue holding defendants accountable and ensuring victims are paid the restitution that is owed to them.
Just in its 1st year, Restitution Court has already proven to be a tremendous success. As of June 2018, 23 clients have appeared in Restitution Court and a total of $134,087.71 restitution payments have been collected. Furthermore, 26 clients have avoided being referred to Restitution Court as just the possibility of having to appear, motivated them to pay in full or increase their payment. Among the 26 clients, a total of $116,010.09 in restitution has been paid. In total, since inception, Restitution Court has collected $250,097.80 for victims. Based on our analysis, defendants referred to Restitution Court increase their average monthly frequency of restitution payments by 164% and their average monthly amount of restitution paid by 938.57%.
Recently, a defendant, who owed over $7,000 in restitution, asked DPO Ulicki if she could obtain a travel permit to travel out the country. DPO Ulicki mentioned to her that she owed restitution and was making minimal monthly payments. He questioned her ability to pay since she had extra money to travel out the country. The defendant also contacted her attorney to request permission from the Court in order to travel outside the country. The defendant’s lawyer reiterated what DPO Ulicki already told the defendant should she insist on bringing the matter back to court. At the end, the defendant decided to pay her entire restitution amount owed to the victim.