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Victim Restitution in California Criminal Cases

Victim Restitution in California Criminal Cases

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last year dealing with issues involving restitution in criminal cases in California.  Restitution is basically about compensating victims of crime for their out of pocket expenses.  In theory, defendants in criminal cases should be ordered by the court to pay these expenses to their crime victims.

Expenses could be: Medical bills, loss of work, therapy, property damage or loss of use of property and even legal fees to try and collect the money.

After someone is convicted in court, the court and/or the prosecution should inquire of the crime victim if they are owed any restitution.  The amount of restitution is then ordered by the court to be paid as a term and condition of the defendant’s conviction.  If the defendant is on probation, then the court and/or the probation department should help monitor these payments.

If there is no probation or it expires before all restitution has been paid, the crime victim is still able to collect the restitution amount as if it were a civil judgment.  This means that they can record the debt, they can place a lien on property, they can garnish wages or levy banks accounts.

The trouble with this type of collection is that the order for restitution comes from the criminal court.  Most of the other techniques for collecting a judgment come from the civil court.  Sometimes, applying the collection techniques in civil court are not well received in those court when it comes to collecting on criminal restitution orders.  The case numbers are different.  The process is a bit different.  Nonetheless, a skilled lawyer knows how to navigate the system to collect restitution for their clients.  And, attorney fees for collecting the restitution money can be added to the judgment for collection.  So too can interest at the legal rate of 10% per year.

If you or someone you care about has been sitting on a restitution order and you don’t know what to do with it, call me:  Attorney Jeffrey Vallens (818) 783-5700 or (888) 764-4340.

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