If a defendant’s sentence includes both a fine and restitution and the defendant makes one or more payments to court administration, the district court may not apply the defendant’s payments to the restitution obligation before the fine unless the district court previously issued an order that so specified.
Since the early 1980s, state court administration policy 209(g) required that defendants’ payments be applied first to restitution, acknowledging the strong public policy in favor of paying victims before applying defendant payments to fines, fees, and surcharges. However, the court of appeals in State v. Knutson, 828 N.W.2d 485, 48 (Minn. App. 2013) recently found that policy 209(g) violated M.S. 611A.04, subd 4 (2012). Under that statutory provision, in the absence of a specific court order giving restitution priority, fine obligations must be paid first and the restitution obligation second.
In order to continue court administration’s longstanding practice of paying victims first, it is important that judges issue orders that explicitly state that restitution shall be paid before any fines. This can be done orally on the record or by amending criminal and/or juvenile restitution order forms to include the required language. Amended restitution orders are available in MNCIS, and on CourtNet.
Judge Alan Pendleton
10th Judicial District