California

Victim Restitution Laws in California

April 11, 2018 by Mikel Rastegar in California  Criminal Defense  
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What is Victim Restitution Laws in California?

Due to Victim Restitution Laws in California subject, probation, jail, prison and/or fines are all commonly known penalties for being convicted of a crime. However, in addition to these, if you are found guilty of a crime that caused harm to another person or entity, you may also be required to pay restitution.

Restitution is compensation that goes to the victims of a crime that makes up for any loss they might have incurred.

The victim may be a person, for example:

  • If you were convicted of home burglary, the judge may order you to pay the victim the value of the property lost.
  • If you were convicted of a felony DUI causing bodily injury, the judge may include the cost of the victim’s medical bills.
  • If you were convicted of a violent crime, and the victim was unable to work due to an injury sustained during the crime, the judge may order you to pay for their lost wages.

The victim may also be an entity, for example:

  • If you were convicted of a DUI and you destroyed a city pole, the judge may order restitution to the city for the cost of replacing the pole.

Three Different Types of Victim Restitution Laws in California

There are three different types of restitution: restitution orders, restitution fines, and parole revocation fines. The court may order all three types of restitution in the same case, or all three types in multiple cases.

1. Restitution Orders

If found guilty, the court can give a direct order to pay back the victim of the crime. This type of restitution goes directly to the victim and there is no limit to the amount of money that the judge can order. It is based on the amount of loss the victim(s) suffered as a result of the crime.

The prosecutor is not allowed to reduce this amount even during a plea bargain. This is because the District Attorney does not have the right to waive any claims on the victim’s behalf.

2. Restitution Fines

A restitution fine is money that a criminal offender pays in every case as a “debt to society.”. It goes to the state’s Victims Compensation and Government Claims Board which helps support the California Victims Compensation Fund. The amount of the fine varies depending on whether the defendant was convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony and ranges from $100 to $10,000 (California Penal Code §1202.4).

The Victims Compensation and Government Claims Board collect the fine money to aid victims of violent crimes. The money collected by the Board usually goes directly to the people and organizations helping victims, for example, doctors, dentists, psychologists, domestic violence centers, rehabilitation centers, funeral homes, etc.

3. Parole Revocation Fines

When a defendant is sentenced for a crime, the judge may order a parole revocation fine. This means that the restitution fine amount will be doubled if a parole violation occurs, or if their parole is revoked. (California Penal Code §1202.45).

Appealing at a Restitution Hearing

If you disagree with the restitution amount probation states you owe, your criminal defense attorney can request to have a restitution hearing, where the alleged victim or the district attorney will need to disclose in detail why you owe this amount. Your attorney can then make an argument as to whether it is a fair amount.

What Happens if You Can’t Pay Your Restitution?

If a convicted defendant is unable to pay their restitution, or an issue arises when a defendant’s probation period ends and all of the restitution has not been paid, the judge has a couple of options.

One option is to extend the probationary period. However, it cannot exceed the maximum sentence period for the crime.

Another option the judge may consider is to terminate probation altogether, and convert the restitution order to a civil judgment. This means that you could be sued in civil court for the full amount of restitution you owe.

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