Legal Troubles Can Lead to Bankruptcy in New York

Associated Press reported in “Roommate charged with hate crime in NJ webcam case” on April 20, 2011 that a former Rutgers University freshman, now age 19, was indicted on 15 counts including bias intimidation and invasion of privacy when he allegedly used a webcam to record a roommate’s same-sex encounter.  The roommate, who was gay, committed suicide at age 18.  If convicted of the most serious bias charge, the former Rutgers student could face 5 to 10 years in prison.  Prosecutors said the 19- year-old used another classmate’s computer in a dorm room to activate a webcam on a computer in his room to view and stream the roommate’s sex encounter. During the time, the former Rutgers student posted messages on a Twitter account.  The indictment suggested he tried to cover his actions, by deleting a Twitter post, and replacing it with another tweet. He also allegedly deleted text messages sent and received by witnesses and gave the police false information.

Someone who gets into legal problems can rack up a lot of debt from fines, court costs, and attorneys’ fees.  A case like the former Rutgers student’s can end up in civil court for intentional torts and criminal court for hate crime.  If the act is intentional, there would not be any insurance coverage, and an attorney at $400/hour or more, could charge as much as $20 for reading an email.

A criminal defendant may have to pay restitution to the victim.  People feel sorry for the victim, but never think how the defendant must feel.  Restitution is money a court orders a criminal defendant to pay a victim for economic, not personal injury, losses related to a crime.  When someone hurts another, especially parents who lose a son, the defendant would unlikely get any sympathy for early settlement.   No amount of money can take away a hurt.  Any settlement may be unfair, allowing the defendant to get away.  The victim may recover attorney fees incurred in establishing restitution, and wants to use the defendant as an example to stop similar behavior.

Once the court enters a restitution order, the victim requests an order of examination to find out the defendant’s assets to collect on the order.  If the defendant does not attend the examination, a bench warrant could be issued for an arrest.  Similar to the bankruptcy process, the examination is under penalty of perjury.  After the examination, the victim may get an attachment order against the defendant’s assets, and the court may enter an order to deduct income from the defendant’s wages. The defendant may file bankruptcy, but restitution orders are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

When contemplating bankruptcy, consult with an experienced New York bankruptcy attorney.