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Name: People v. Ellis
Case #: D074710
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 01/14/2019

Penal Code section 2085.5 allows CDCR to withdraw funds from prison inmate’s trust account to pay a restitution fine for a prior offense even though the inmate completed his prison term for the prior offense. Ellis was sentenced to prison in 1992 and ordered to pay a restitution fine under Penal Code section 1202.4, which qualified for garnishment under section 2085.5, subdivision (a). He completed the sentence in 1999. He was committed to prison on a new offense in 2011, and CDCR resumed deducting a portion of his prison wages under section 2085.5 based on the restitution fine ordered in 1992. Ellis filed a motion to vacate restitution, and argued CDCR does not have authority to garnish his prison wages because he was no longer in custody for the 1992 conviction. The trial court denied the motion. Ellis appealed. Held: Affirmed. Under section 2085.5, subdivision (a), CDCR has authority to deduct a portion of an inmate’s wages (20 to 50 percent) if that inmate owes a restitution fine imposed under certain enumerated statutes, including section 1202.4. The only prerequisites in the statute are that the person be a state prisoner and that the person owe a restitution fine imposed under one of the listed statutes. The only restrictions are the percentage that can be deducted and that no deduction is allowed if prohibited by federal law. There is nothing in the plain and unambiguous language of the statute to support a conclusion that it applies only to restitution fines imposed in the current matter for which the person has been sent to prison. If a person still owes a portion of a qualifying fine and is an inmate in a California prison, CDCR may deduct a portion of the prison wages under section 2085.5, subdivision (a).

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: