FAQ About Restitution
What is victim restitution? It is the right of victims to payment by the person who committed a crime which hurt them or someone in their family.
How do victims get this right? First, there must be a criminal conviction. Then the victim must communicate to the court, the prosecuting attorney or the Probation Department about their losses.
Who is a crime victim? The person hurt, the family of the person who was hurt and a business which has been hurt by a crime.
What are losses? Damaged or stolen property, medical bills, therapy bills, lost time from work caused by the crime (including time spent going to court and travel expenses to court) and damage to a business or its property.
Are victims entitled to an attorney separate from the prosecutor? Yes, this is a constitutional right in California.
Who pays the victim’s attorney? A victim must make his or her own arrangement with an attorney. Under California law, the criminal should be ordered to reimburse the victim for all attorneys’ fees spent on restitution.
What are the differences between seeking victim restitution for a loss and filing a civil suit against the criminal? There are many differences. Here are three:
- Victim restitution is usually ordered to the victim within a matter of weeks of a criminal conviction. Most civil suits take will over a year and sometimes years.
- In a civil suit the victim is required to face the lawyer for the criminal and answer personal questions under oath, in front of a court reporter (and maybe the criminal as well) for a whole day. This is a deposition. There are no depositions in victim restitution.
- In most civil cases, the attorney takes between 30% and 40% of the victim’s recovery. This does not occur in victim restitution.
Does it matter if the criminal has property or money? Yes. An order to pay restitution can only be paid by a person who has the means to pay.
If I already have a civil lawsuit against the criminal, can I still seek victim restitution? Yes. Victim restitution can be used to increase your total recovery in some cases because a portion of your civil attorneys’ fees may be paid to you in victim restitution.
How long after the conviction can I seek victim restitution? In all legal matters, it is best to act quickly while evidence and witnesses are still available.