When people face criminal charges in Florida, they have a general sense of the penalties they face. They are usually aware of the fact that they could face fines, imprisonment, probation, community supervision, or parole, and community service. But, what a lot of defendants fail to think about is criminal restitution.
The National Center for Victims of Crime defines “restitution” as a “payment by an offender to the victim for the harm caused by the offender’s wrongful acts.” Criminal courts across the country have the power to order convicted defendants to pay restitution to crime victims in specific types of criminal cases, usually violent felonies, such as sexual assault, aggravated assault, and murder.
When an offender is ordered to pay restitution, it’s a part of their sentence. So, an offender cannot get away with not paying it. Ultimately, restitution is meant to reimburse the crime victim for out-of-pocket expenses related to the crime. Such expenses include but are not limited to:
- Medical bills
- Prescription costs
- Lost income
- Lost property
- Damaged property
- Counseling or therapy costs
- Insurance co-pays and deductibles
- Costs of crime scene cleanup
Restitution does not cover all of the same losses that would be covered in a civil lawsuit, such as emotional distress and pain and suffering. It only covers damages that are easy for the victim to prove with something such as a physical bill or receipt.
Restitution vs. Civil Damages
Restitution and civil damages are NOT the same thing. Restitution is ordered by a criminal court, whereas civil damages are ordered by a civil court. If a victim decides to file a personal injury lawsuit against the offender and the victim prevails in civil court, it is possible for the offender to be ordered to pay both restitution and civil damages.
Generally, civil damages are meant to compensate the victim for losses that were not included in the restitution, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and in some cases punitive damages, which are meant to punish the offender for their wrongdoing.
In regards to civil cases, offenders often ask: “Can a victim collect double the amount if I’m ordered to pay restitution and they win in civil court?” In a word, no. If a victim receives court-ordered restitution and they win in civil court, they cannot collect twice for the same losses. For example, the offender can’t be ordered to pay the victim’s medical bills through a restitution order and then have to pay the same medical bills through a civil judgement.
“Usually a civil judgement is decreased by the amount of restitution that the victim has already received for a loss,” says the National Center for Victims of Crime.
Restitution in Florida
In Florida, convicted defendants will be punished according to the law. In addition to their standard punishment, the court may order defendants to make restitution to the victims of their crimes for the following:
- Damage caused by the defendant’s criminal conduct.
- Loss caused by the defendant’s criminal conduct.
- Costs of necessary medical services (physical, psychiatric, or psychological).
- Costs of rehabilitation, physical or occupational therapy.
- Reimbursement of lost income.
- Funeral expenses for victims who are killed.
To learn more about restitution from the Office of State Attorney Dave Aronberg, click here.
In Florida, restitution is covered under Section 775.089 of the Florida Statutes. Under Sec. 775.089, restitution can be monetary or nonmonetary. In many violent crime cases, the court orders restitution as a condition of the defendant’s probation under Section 948.03 of the Florida Statutes.
Sec. 775.089(1)(b)2 of the Florida Statutes reads: “An order of restitution entered as part of a plea agreement is a definitive and binding as any other order of restitution, and a statement to such effect must be made part of the plea agreement.”
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