When Crime Doesn’t Pay: What To Know About Criminal Restitution

A single criminal act earning a conviction is sure to present the court with a wide variety of possible sentences. Apart from incarceration, most convicted defendants also face numerous financial punishments. Court costs can be in the thousands, legal fees can be high, and fines and penalties can be sky-high. Along with all the usual forms of punishment comes one meant to make things better for the victim of crimes. If you have been arrested, it's in your best interest to understand how making criminal restitution could become part of your sentence if you are convicted. Read on to find out more.

Victims: People and Businesses

The definition of victim is broader than you might expect. Those convicted of fraud, for instance, may owe a business or even a government agency a financial penalty for the harm done. Some restitution is meant to cover the expenses of law enforcement or the judicial system. For example, say someone faked a kidnapping to gain social media attention and thousands of dollars were spent on search parties and other costs. If the perpetrator is convicted of false crime reporting, restitution could help pay back some of those wasted taxpayer dollars. In other cases, it is the crime victim's family that is owed restitution when a homicide has occurred.

How Much Is Owed?

Several factors are considered when restitution is ordered. Your criminal defense attorney can provide you with some estimates of how local courts rule on this matter. Some things to consider:

Lost dollars — If the crime was financial-related, then the sum stolen or defrauded will be part of the restitution. Even low-end robberies could spur a need for restitution for amounts under $1,000.

Serious crimes — Even if no money was lost during the commission of the crime, restitution may be ordered to help a victim of a crime. When it comes to a violent bodily injury crime, the restitution amounts can climb to serious amounts. Murder, rape, and other felonies may provide victims with funds to pay for medical expenses, funeral expenses, mental health counseling, crime-scene cleaning, lost wages, and lost or damaged personal property.

It's vital that those accused of crimes not disregard the financial impact of restitution. This penalty on those convicted could amount to many thousands of dollars on top of the other financial obligations associated with court cases. Speak to a criminal defense lawyer about your case right away. Getting the charges dropped, or at least, reduced, could spare you not only jail time but plenty of financial penalties.