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Restitution Schedule Modification

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//November 13, 2023//

Restitution Schedule Modification

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//November 13, 2023//

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: United States of America v. Von Eric Sweatt

Case No.: 23-1752

Officials: Hamilton, Scudder, and Lee, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Restitution Schedule Modification

In 2010, Sweatt pleaded guilty to five counts of armed bank robbery, leading the district court to mandate a payment of $20,038.52 under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (18 U.S.C. 3663A–3664). The court specified “immediately” in the Payment Schedule. Sweatt opted out of the Bureau’s Inmate Financial Responsibility Program, which assigns portions of prisoners’ incomes to their restitution debts. In 2023, the district court granted the Bureau of Prisons authority to redirect $600 from Sweatt’s $1,100 prison trust account towards his restitution debt. Following hip replacement surgery, Sweatt, unable to work for approximately 18 months, sought a modification to suspend restitution payments until he resumed employment. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3664(k), which allows the court to “adjust the payment schedule” upon notification of any “material change in the defendant’s economic circumstances,” the Seventh Circuit overturned the denial of his motion.

Importantly, Sweatt did not seek to modify the fact or amount of restitution, nor did he aim to undermine the Bureau’s exclusive authority to establish a pre-release payment plan. While the government presumed Sweatt intended to alter obligations under a nonexistent Program agreement with the Bureau, no such agreement existed. Generally, district courts lack the jurisdiction to modify a sentence, but they possess the authority to do so when granted by statute; in this case, section 3664(k) empowered the court to modify the restitution schedule.

Vacated and remanded.

Decided 11/06/23

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