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January 16, 2020

The "Son of Sam Law" allows crime victims to recover from any funds of a convicted person, including pension benefits

A retired New York City police officer [Defendant] was convicted of, among other crimes, murder in the second degree and attempted murder in the second degree and was sentenced to a lengthy prison term.*

Plaintiff in this action had brought a personal injury action against Defendant that ultimately resulted in a judgment in excess of $1 million against Defendant. When Plaintiff's attorney served a restraining notice upon the New York City Police Pension Fund [Fund] to prevent any disbursements by the Fund to Defendant pending Defendant's criminal appeal, the Fund's general counsel advised Plaintiff's attorney that the Fund "was prohibited from honoring" Plaintiff's restraining notice because Defendant's pension "was subject to an anti-assignment provision." Defendant then moved to vacate the restraining notice and to stay the enforcement of the money judgment against him. 

Supreme Court denied Defendant's motion, finding that the so-called Son of Sam Law** specifically permitted crime victims to recover from any funds of a convicted person, including pension benefits. Defendant appealed the court's decision.

The Appellate Division rejected Defendant's appeal challenging the Supreme Court's ruling. The court explained that the legislative intent of the Son of Sam Law was to improve the ability of crime victims to obtain "full and just compensation from the person convicted of the crime by allowing crime victims or their representatives to sue the convicted criminals who harmed them when the criminals receive substantial sums of money from virtually any source and protecting those funds while litigation is pending," citing Waldman v State of New York, 163 AD3d 1114,.

Although the Son of Sam Law initially only permitted a crime victim to recover "profits of the crime", in 2001 the law was amended to allow a crime victim to seek recovery from "funds of a convicted person," which, said the Appellate Division, includes "all funds and property received from any source by a person convicted of a specified crime."***

Defendant had argued that CPLR §5205 exempted his pension from assignment to satisfy Plaintiff's judgment because it provides for the exemption of pension funds from the award of money judgments. 

Citing Matter of New York State Off. of Victim Servs. v Raucci, 106 AD3d 1138, the Appellate Division, said it had found that CPLR 5205 (c) was superseded by the Son of Sam Law. Further, the Appellate Division opined that  Defendant's assertions that Retirement and Social Security Law §110 and Administrative Code of the City of New York §13-264 protected his pension from assignment to satisfy plaintiff's money judgment "are similarly without merit due to the broad reach of the Son of Sam Law."

* See People v Guzy, 167 AD3d 1230, lv denied 33 NY3d 948

** Executive Law § 632-a

*** The law, as amended, however, specifically excludes child support and earned income (Executive Law §632-a [1] [c]).

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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