I'm a business owner and a property owner in downtown Springfield, MO. On Halloween this year an unnamed bandit fractured my front door. There was a witness and the police apprehended the suspect who admitted to breaking my glass.
I was called immediately and asked if I wanted to press charges. Of course I did. I knew this was going to be quite an expense.
I waited weeks to receive some notice after my initial call to the prosecutor the following week after the incident. "No you shouldn't have to try to recuperate your costs," I was told by the assistant at the Country prosecutor's office, "We have a victim's restitution program. Wait to hear from us before doing anything like filing a small claim."
"GREAT!," I thought. Finally something makes sense about the law and being a landlord. I've had lots of experience as a property owner as I used to own apartment complexes and other rentals. My overall experience dealing with the courts and criminal activity by my renters hasn't been pleasant. The courts often seem to treat the landlord poorly and the renter with a strange lenience.
As I said, weeks had gone by and I decided I needed to learn what was happening. As it turns out the policeman had estimated the cost of repairs of my door at $400 and so the case would go to municipal court and not County. The city municipal court does not have a victim's restitution program so I was advised to seek whatever damages on my own, either through small claims court or hire an attorney and pursue it as a civil matter.
"But wait," I informed them, "the damages came to over $500 and I have all the receipts."
"Oh, I see," said the administrative person at the municipal court prosecutor's office.
It took another week to follow up with all the different phone numbers including several people in investigations at the police force, several administrative people at both county and city prosecutor's offices. Finally from Sgt. Smith who heads up investigations at the Springfield Police force I was told that the administrative people at the courts don't know what they're talking about and he went on to explain to me what a frustration it is for him because he often gets angry calls from people who were misinformed by the courts.
It requires that the damages exceed $750 to be a felony when it comes to property damage. $500 is the cut-off for theft and burglary. So NO, it will stay at the municipal court.
"So as a victim then," I asked, does it seem fair that the criminal can go breaking out glass doors and not be responsible to pay back for damages?
Sgt. Smith went on to calmly explain that I should just go see the prosecutor and explain that I'd like to seek restitution for PROBATION and the criminal would more than likely have to reimburse me for my deductible before being released from probation.
"Wow, what a relief," I thought. Grateful again for a chance to be reimbursed I called the same lady I've been dealing with at municipal court who explained to me that once Sgt. Smith knew that damages exceeded $500 that the case would probably be transferred to County and the victim's restitution program would be available for me.
WRONG. At municipal court they explained that I couldn't see the prosecutor and they seldom seek restitution. My only option was to fax over the receipts and those receipts will be presented to the judge and at the judge's discretion, they may be entered and used as a factor in the judges sentence.
The administrator at the court also explained that the police force doesn't know what they're talking about. Interesting that the police force said the same about the prosecutor's office. In the meantime, I'm likely to not be reimbursed and have spent hours just to learn the procedure.
Will justice be served? At this point I feel as if I've done something wrong. Each time I talk with people in charge of dealing with my case I get the impression that I'm a nuisance and it is people like me who make their job unpleasant.
To a certain extent, at each crossroads, I felt victim to a prank like this: