If an individual has been charged with or convicted of a crime, they may face a variety of punishments. In certain cases, combinations of punishments are ordered, which may include:
- Probation; and
- Criminal fines.
Criminal fines may also include an order for the defendant to pay restitution. Restitution is intended either to restore, or make whole, the victim of the crime or is paid to a state restitution fund.
The punishments for criminal offenses will vary by state as well as by criminal offense.
What is Restitution?
In criminal cases, restitution is a monetary amount which is paid by a defendant to the victim of the crime in order to compensate the victim for the losses that are associated with the offense. Restitution is ordered by a court, typically as part of the defendant’s sentence.
- Criminal restitution is required to be calculated with certainty and may cover costs such as:
- Medical bills;
- Hospital costs; and
- Other expenses;
- Property damage; and
- Returning the property which was stolen, or an equivalent monetary amount.
Restitution is often paid out in small payments by a defendant in monthly installments.
When a minor, or an individual who is under the age of majority in their state, is convicted of a crime, a court may order a child to pay restitution to the victim as part of the judgment against them. Restitution is monetary compensation for:
- Destroyed property;
- Stolen items; and
- Other damages which resulted from the crime.
How is Restitution Different from Crime Victims Compensation?
Certain courts and jurisdictions offer what is referred to as crime victims compensation. This is a program which is intended to help alleviate various costs which are associated with the victim’s trial and criminal case.
Crime victims compensation is different from restitution, which is ordered as part of sentencing during a trial. Crime victims compensation may cover costs, including:
- Various medical expenses;
- Therapy, Counseling, or rehabilitation expenses for the victim;
- In certain cases, lost wages resulting from the injury or due to court appearances;
- Expenses associated with funeral and burial services; and
- Some type of crime scene clean-up, if necessary.
Crime victims compensation programs tend to cover more of the administrative costs which are associated with the trial procedures as opposed to the substantive losses which are caused by the crime itself. The definitions of these specific remedies may vary by state.
Which One is Available for Me?
In general, restitution will depend upon the ruling of the court as well as the calculations which are made during the official court proceedings. On the other hand, an individual must apply for crime victims compensation.
Only certain victims of crime will qualify for these programs. It may take a long time for restitution to be paid out fully.
Because of this, some victims will favor the crime victims compensation program as a quicker way to make up for their losses related to the case. If an individual is facing such a major decision during a difficult time, it may be helpful to consult with a criminal lawyer.
How Do I Get Restitution?
If an individual is a victim of a crime, they may have the right to request restitution from the offender. Each court has a process for requesting restitution, which typically requires a victim to fill out a standard form.
The form should be located at the county prosecutor or clerk’s office. As a victim, an individual should also submit evidence with the form, which may include medical bills or receipts.
How Does a Court Determine How Much Restitution to Give?
Restitution is considered to be part of a defendant’s overall punishment. As noted above, restitution is provided by a court order.
When determining the amount of restitution which will be ordered, a court will consider many factors, including, but not limited to:
- The ability of the offender to pay;
- If the offender is going to prison;
- Whether the victim could have avoided the out-of-pocket expenses; and
- The type of crime committed.
Which Crimes Have the Highest Likelihood of Including Restitution?
There are many crimes which may include restitution as a form of punishment. Common examples of crimes in which restitution is ordered include:
- Abuse: Almost any conviction for abuse will result in restitution payment, including:
- child abuse;
- elderly abuse;
- spousal abuse; or
- sexual abuse;
- Homicide: Restitution is given to the family of the victim; and
- Robbery or Burglary: The defendant may be required to pay full value of the stolen item.
Is Money the Only Way to Fulfill the amount Owed in Restitution?
Because children and minors typically do not have significant incomes, a court may require a defendant child to perform community service instead of ordering monetary payments.
Do Parents Have to Pay Restitution for their Delinquent Child if the Child Has Little or No Income?
A parent or a legal guardian may be required to pay for restitution damages if their child is not able to pay. This rule varies by state and may depend upon the severity of the crime which was committed by the child as well as the ability of the parents to make payments.
If a court orders the parents to contribute or to pay the restitution amount, they are required to do so or they face being found in contempt of court.
How Long is the Child Responsible for the Judgment against Her?
When a monetary judgment is ordered against a child, that child is held responsible until the entire amount is paid. A juvenile court has the power to collect money from a child until they reach the age of 21.
When the child reaches 21, this power is transferred to another court. It is important to note, however, that turning 21 without paying the judgment in full does not mean that the minor can get away from paying the ordered restitution.
If the defendant turns 21 and the judgment is not paid in full, the debt will be transferred to another court to enforce the collection of payments.
Is there Any Way to Fight the Court-Ordered Restitution Payment?
Both the victim and the offender are permitted to challenge the amount of restitution which is ordered by a court. If an individual is in this situation, it will be helpful for them to consult with a criminal attorney.
By consulting with an attorney, an individual can learn about their:
- Defenses; and
- Options for dealing with the restitution process.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Assist with My Restitution Claim?
Criminal remedies as well as the rights of victims in criminal cases vary by state and the nature of the case itself. If you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to restitution, it may be helpful to consult with a juvenile lawyer.
Your lawyer can provide you with advice regarding your rights and explain the specific laws in your state. Your lawyer can also advise you regarding the availability and differences between restitution and crime victims compensation in your state and which will be a better choice in your situation.
If you are a defendant, your lawyer can provide you with representation in court. Having a lawyer defending you will also ensure that you are ordered to pay a fair amount of restitution.