FAIRFIELD — The Court of Appeal has overturned a local judge’s ban on alcohol for a welfare fraud offender imposed so she could take any money she might spend on booze and use it to repay the state.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate she purchase either drugs or alcohol until she’s paid back the amount she obtained fraudulently,” Judge Peter B. Foor said last year of $4,314 Sabrina A. Sims had been wrongly paid in welfare payments and food stamps in 2008 and 2009.
For several months, Sims was paid $11.50 an hour in state social services money to care for her infirm husband at their Suisun City home. She did not report that income to local welfare officials who did not catch up to the oversight until 2013.
Sims ended up pleading no contest to a felony, agreeing to work 100 community service hours, to repay the ill-gotten bounty and spend three years on formal probation.
After Sims’ sentencing, prosecutors echoed support for Foor’s alcohol prohibition.
“The additional alcohol-related conditions were designed to ensure [her] compliance with the restitution order. The conditions relate to the crime of which (Sims) was convicted in that they guarantee that [she] will pay her restitution obligation before using or purchasing alcohol,” prosecutors said in appellate court filings, adding that the booze ban would force Sims to ”prioritize her income and expenses to repay [the state].”
The Court of Appeal was silent on Foor’s decision – other than reversing it, but they faulted prosecutors’ reasoning.
“The people’s broad assertions that these conditions somehow will “guarantee” Sims’s compliance with the restitution order and deter any future similar criminal conduct essentially argue for a court’s micromanagement of a probationer’s budget whenever restitution is ordered – a practice we refuse to endorse,” the Court of Appeal ruling stated.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.