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How is Restitution Calculated?

Restitution, which is a “debt to society” that an offender must pay to both the state and victim(s) of a crime, is calculated by evaluating the gains of the defendant. The goal of restitution is to put the injured party back in the same position they were in before suffering the damages caused by the defendant.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

What is the Restitution Process?

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (Criminal Division), in federal court, a convicted offender may be ordered to reimburse victims for financial losses incurred due to the offender’s crime in a process called “restitution.” [1] This reimbursement may be ordered for lost income, property damage, counseling, medical expenses, funeral costs, or other financial costs directly related to the crime.

To determine the amount of restitution to be paid, the U.S. Probation Office gathers financial loss information from the investigative agent(s), trial attorney, and victims before sentencing. In many cases, this information is gathered from the victim(s)’ impact statement(s) – U.S. Department of Justice
Criminal Division

At sentencing, the judge then enters an “Order for Restitution,” directing the offender to reimburse victims for offense-related financial losses. Compliance with the Order of Restitution is a condition of the offender’s probation or supervised release.

However, even before the offender is released from custody, they are encouraged to begin repaying restitution by participating in the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program, in which a percentage of their prison wages is applied to their restitution obligations.

Who is Eligible for Restitution?

Anyone who has suffered direct losses because of a crime may be eligible for restitution. This could be an individual an entity, or both.

In many cases, the defendant will need to pay restitution to a government agency or another entity that has compensated the victim for their losses, such as an insurer or a victim compensation program. If there is no victim of a crime, restitution will not typically be ordered.

Certain states may require a defendant to pay restitution to government agencies to cover the costs of investigating a crime.

A defendant in a murder case may be ordered to pay restitution to the victim’s family members. This can overlap with the damages paid in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family members.

What are Some Examples of Restitution Punishment?

  • Property Damage: If a person is convicted of vandalizing or otherwise harming someone else’s property, the court may order the defendant to pay for the repair costs or the depreciated value of the property.
  • Theft: Repaying the victim for the value of stolen goods, especially if the items cannot be returned at all or in the same condition it was before the offense occurred.
  • Assault: Individuals who have been found guilty of assault could be ordered to cover the victim’s medical expenses, lost wages, or therapy costs for emotional trauma.
  • Fraud: In cases of fraud, embezzlement, or other white-collar crimes, the court may order restitution equal to the money that was stolen, along with any related costs or damages.

Can Victims File a Lien Against a Defendant?

Yes. Some victims may choose to request the U.S. Clerk of Court to issue an Abstract of Judgment certifying that a judgment has been entered in their favor. A victim may then file the abstract with the Recorder’s Office for any county in which it is believed the defendant has assets, in the state in which a defendant was convicted in federal court.

Upon its recording, the Abstract of Judgment becomes a lien upon the property of the defendant in that jurisdiction in the same manner as a state court judgment. Victims should consult their private attorney for additional information.

Victims must complete the form and submit it to the U.S. Clerk of Court before the Abstract will be “issued” by the U.S. Clerk of Court.

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