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A judge can order many different types of punishments besides jail and community supervision. For example, a judge can require counseling, volunteer work (known as “community service”), and drug testing, to name a few.
Another type of punishment a judge can include in sentencing is known as restitution. Basically, restitution means payment to victims for crimes committed
1. Restitution is a form of repayment for crimes committed against a person
Some crimes cause financial harm to a victim.
For example, if someone is assaulted, the victim will likely have medical bills due to their injuries. They may also miss work, causing them to lose out on wages they would have earned if not for the assault.
If someone is robbed or has something valuable stolen from their home, then that victim has a right to receive payment in the form of restitution from the person who took the belongings from them.
These are a few examples of the types of expenses that can be recovered from restitution.
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2. Restitution does not cover pain and suffering and other immeasurable costs
Lots of news reports and movies mention payments to victims of crimes for something called “pain and suffering” or “loss of consortium”. These terms refer to emotional damage caused by the crime or a more difficult lifestyle as a result of the crime.
Usually, this type of payment is given by a judge in a civil case. Criminal judges do not assign these types of emotional damages as restitution. Only measurable damages, such as hospital bills, can be used as a factor in calculating restitution.
3. Restitution is not automatic
In order for a judge to include restitution in the sentencing phase of a trial, the victim of the crime has to ask for it. When someone reports a crime, the prosecutor provides them with information about the availability of restitution.
If the victim chooses to collect restitution payments, they must fill out the proper paperwork and turn it into the court before the sentencing phase occurs.
If the victim does not complete the paperwork and turn it in before the deadline or the sentencing phase, then the chance to collect restitution is lost, and these payments will not be made as part of the sentence given to the defendant.
4. Restitution payments can begin in jail
Once someone is ordered to pay restitution, the payments start immediately.
If the defendant is given jail time for the crime committed, then 25% of any money earned and 25% of money given to the inmate by friends or family is awarded to the victim as restitution payment.
If the defendant is not sentenced to jail or prison, then they are placed on a payment plan to pay back the amount owed in restitution. These payments are monitored by the court, and default on the payment plan can lead to further consequences by the court.
5. Restitution payment plans can be altered by the court
Those who have been convicted of crimes sometimes face difficulty in finding work, and they must also take care of their families and other responsibilities. Because of this, the courts offer some flexibility in payments.
These changes to payment plans do not in any way cancel restitution owed to a victim or make the total amount of money to be paid less than what was originally required by the judge. Instead, they lower the amount that must be paid on a monthly basis or allow defendants facing financial difficulty to temporarily stop making payments. Once the defendant is able to resume payments, then the monthly amount due will increase.
6. Unpaid restitution can result in wage garnishment
Federal and state laws allow for wage garnishments in certain situations. A wage garnishment is a court order that is sent to an employer instructing them to send a portion of one of their employee’s wages to the court for payment of fees. Wage garnishments can take up to 25% of a person’s salary, and once they are in place, there is little that can be done to remove the garnishment.
If someone is ordered by the court to pay restitution, and they refuse to pay, then the government will send a wage garnishment order to their employer, and the money will be taken automatically from their check each pay period.
Contact The Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC Today
Those accused of a crime must act quickly to safeguard their rights. The easiest way to avoid paying restitution or facing other punishments is to have a trusted lawyer on your team to fight for you rights and avoid a guilty sentence at trial. Contact our offices today for a free consultation.