If you are currently facing criminal charges, you undoubtedly know that in the event of a conviction you will face a number of potential penalties. One of those penalties, in certain types of criminal cases, is a court order to pay restitution. Because restitution is not a penalty that is even an option, much less imposed, in all criminal prosecutions, many people are unfamiliar with the concept. In case the possibility of restitution applies in your case, a Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer explains what it is and how it works in practice.
What Is Restitution?
Restitution is a monetary award or remedy that can be ordered in a civil or criminal case. In a criminal case, a restitution award is based on the value of the damage the defendant caused or the value of the goods a defendant stole/damages. For example, if you are convicted of theft, restitution might be ordered to compensate the victim for the value of the items taken during the theft. In a driving under the influence case, restitution might be ordered if you caused a collision and the victim suffered personal and/or property damages. Likewise, if you are convicted of assault, you might be ordered to pay restitution to cover the expenses the victim incurred treating his/her injuries.
Unlike compensation in a civil personal injury lawsuit, however, criminal restitution only covers actual damages. Non-economic damages, commonly referred to as “pain and suffering,” are not included in a restitution award. Consequently, the victims of the theft, DUI, or assault case would not be entitled to restitution for the emotional trauma they suffered as a result of the crime.
Restitution is also not the same thing as a fine. You could be ordered to pay both restitution and a fine in any type of criminal case. A fine, however, is another type of punishment whereas restitution is intended to cover actual expenses. Moreover, a fine goes to the court and/or government whereas the restitution is paid directly to the victim of the crime.
How Is Restitution Determined?
Typically, if a judge is considering restitution in a criminal case the judge will set the matter for a separate restitution hearing after the trial or acceptance of a guilty plea agreement. At the restitution hearing, the prosecuting attorney will present evidence showing the actual damages suffered by the victim in the case. Examples of actual damages that might be part of a restitution award include costs or expenses associated with:
- Property damages to a home or business
- Items taken or damaged
- Repairing the victim’s vehicle
- Renting a vehicle while the vehicle was being repaired
- Ambulance ride to hospital
- Hospital bill
- Doctor and/or specialist bills
- Therapy or chiropractic care
- Prescription medications
- Lost wages
The defendant may object to, or question the amount of, any bills presented at the restitution hearing. For example, in some cases a defendant’s motor vehicle liability insurance or homeowner’s insurance carrier will actually cover bills incurred by a victim. This is most common in a DUI. The purpose of restitution is not to provide a victim with a windfall. The same theory applies fi the victim’s insurance carrier covered expenses. If a bill has already been paid the victim does not get paid a second time through the restitution award, even if their own insurance carrier paid the bill. Legally, the insurance company could come after you for the expenses they covered; however, that is a separate issue. If the victim was responsible for a deductible or co-payments, however, those could be included in the restitution award.
Ultimately, the judge will decide if restitution should be awarded, and if so in what amount. In some jurisdictions, however, there is a cap to the amount of restitution that can be ordered by the court.
How Is Restitution Paid?
Usually, restitution is paid through the probation department during the course of the defendant’s time on probation. If you are ordered to pay restitution, make sure you are clear on your order of probation what amount represents restitution and what amounts are for other things such as court costs, fines, and probation fees.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Lawyer
If you facing criminal charges in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Murfreesboro criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the prosecution of your case. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.