What Should I Know About Restitution Law?

Restitution is one of the sentencing options available when someone is convicted of a crime, forcing them to pay the victim of the crime for their losses. This is favored by many judges since it forces the person that has been found guilty to directly answer for their actions, as opposed to paying a fine to the state or just staying behind bars. In fact, when a judge does not determine that a defendant should pay restitution, they also must provide an on-record justification for why they feel it is not necessary.

Restitution Is Usually Always Mandatory

Restitution is different than paying a fine. A fine goes to the court and is predetermined depending on the type of crime committed. Restitution is paid directly to the victim and can differ depending on what losses the court determines were involved.

Restitution is included in a criminal sentence when:

  • It is necessary for rehabilitation;
  • It is needed to make the victim whole; and
  • The financial losses of the victim is related to the crime.

In general, restitution can be paid for funeral expenses, lost wages, medical and counseling expenses, lost or damaged property, and other direct expenses the victim was made to pay. Not only is the direct victim themselves taken into consideration, but indirect victims, such as family members, spouses, or dependents may also be able to receive restitution.

Fortunately, the court is unable to assign an unreasonable amount of restitution fees. The court will look at the victim's losses, the kind of offense committed, whether the offender achieved economic gain, the financial burden placed on others, and the current and future financial resources of the defendant and their ability to pay.