Family Counseling Not Covered in Sexual Abuse Case

(via ASU Morrison Institute)

An LA man does not have to pay for counseling for the family of a boy he molested when he was seventeen and the victim was twelve. The $9,540 fine imposed on Scott H., which was to go toward mental health services for the victim’s mother, stepfather and siblings, was wiped out last week.

The Second District Court of Appeals reversed the juvenile court’s decision.  Justice Frances Rothschild found that the law does not consider family members victims of Scott’s crime.

Scott admitted to the single instance of molestation, which occurred nearly three years ago.  He agreed that the victim should benefit from his payment of a criminal fine, known as restitution. But he said the victim’s family should not receive anything, pointing out that they did not seek counseling until 90 days after the incident, which he argued was suspicious because it came five days after the court mentioned that they could be repaid for such services.

The juvenile court declared Scott a ward of the court, gave him six months’ probation, and ordered him to pay the partially disputed criminal restitution. The court said the victim could receive more restitution for future services, if he could prove that he or a family member needed them to recover from the sexual abuse.

The law governing Scott’s crime does not provide for restitution for third parties – “derivative victims” — meaning parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses, children, or grandchildren. The California Legislature has amended other criminal laws to include derivative victims, but not this one, according to the court.

Rothschild ordered the lower court to impose a fine against Scott H. for the victim’s services, just not those of his family. And she left the door open for the victim to return to the juvenile court as needed, to request future services for himself.

Justice Rothschild was joined by Justices Robert Mallano and Victoria G. Chaney.

Case: People v. Scott H., No. B236743

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