United States May Garnish Wages of Head of Household To Collect Criminal Restitution

Jon Alper Florida Exemptions

A client entered into a criminal plea agreement three years ago stemming from his violation of federal securities laws. The plea agreement included restitution to the victims of his wrongdoing. There is a money judgment against the client for restitution. The client wants to know if the restitution judgment may be enforced against exempt assets, specifically, his wages as head of household in Florida.

The U.S. Department of Justice may garnish his wages to collect the restitution judgment. There is a federal Restitution Act that allows the U.S. to enforce a judgment that imposes a criminal fine or restitution under procedures set forth in the Debt Collection Act that applies to collection of civil judgment in favor of the federal government. The Debt Collection Act (Section 3014) allows to debtor to invoke exemption of any property that is exempt under applicable state law where the debtor has resided for 180 days. The Restitution Act specifically states that the provision of Section 3014 are not applicable to collection of criminal fines or restitution. Therefore, a debtor may not assert Florida exemptions against the United State’s collection of restitution under the Restitution Act.

So, this client’s wages are subject to garnishment to pay the restitution judgment subject to the 25% limit provided by the Consumer Protection Act.

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