What is Restitution in a Criminal Case?
Restitution is normally a monetary amount that is paid to a victim of a crime to serve as compensation for damages suffered as a direct result of the criminal episode. It is generally ordered by the criminal court and made part of the defendant’s sentence. Since Restitution is usually considered a “special condition” of sentence, it must be orally pronounced on the record in order to be legally included with the sentence. Some crimes, like theft, statutorily mandate a restitution order, but it is up to the Judge to set the amount of restitution, which may require an additional court hearing.
Can Restitution be used as negotiating leverage in a Criminal Case?
Absolutely. If restitution is important to the prosecution or the alleged victim in the case, it can be used as a bargaining chip for a lesser charge, pretrial diversion, or even a case dismissal. It is extremely important that your attorney be aware these considerations in the early stages of case representation in order to maximize your position while in negotiations with the State Attorney in Okaloosa County.
Can someone collect Restitution from me if my case is already completed?
It depends. If your case is over and you have completed your DPA, PTI or your probationary sentence, then the criminal court has lost jurisdiction over the issue of restitution. They may still be able to seek a civil claim against you, but they no longer can use the criminal court as an avenue for collection. If you have entered a plea and have not yet completed your entire sentence, then it is possible in certain circumstances for the court to attach a restitution award to your sentence through a probation modification. You still have the right to a special restitution hearing and you may have technical certain defenses available in order to block a restitution sanction. Establishing these defenses can get quite complicated; therefore you need the help of an experienced professional.
What are the ways to avoid paying Restitution?
The best way to avoid restitution is to find a way to get the case dismissed, therefore, extinguishing the criminal court’s jurisdiction. However, if you are facing the prospect of a Restitution Hearing, then you need an attorney to defend you against a future financial crisis. If you are not prepared to defend against a restitution windfall, then you should expect the court to order you to pay every penny of what is being claimed.