If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, you might notice a relatively new form of punishment being meted out – victim restitution. It's vital that defendants know all about the potential sentencing details before they proceed with their case, agree to a plea deal, or stand trial. Learn more about how criminal restitution could affect your sentencing.

Who Are the Victims?

First, it's important to know who or what is meant by the term victim. Even so-called crimes without a readily apparent victim can be included in restitution orders as part of the punishment. For example, being convicted of fraud against a business could result in having to repay the funds that were stolen or embezzled. Government agencies, private businesses, charities, schools, and other entities may be the "victims" in a case. The family members of a person who died can also be paid restitution. Victims of kidnapping, theft, rape, assault, and more are more commonly known victims in criminal cases.

How Much Is Owed?

In many victim restitution cases, and the amount provided is up to the judge and jury. The inability of the defendant to pay the ordered amount is usually no bar to being ordered to pay. What does matter is making amends to the victims by making things right as far as expenses go. That usually means paying:

  1. The costs of an investigation to bring charges
  2. The costs of law enforcement or judicial actions. For example, someone faking a kidnapping might have to pay back the cost of the search.
  3. Personal items that were lost by the victim as a result of the crime. For instance, paying the victim for damage to their electronic devices.
  4. Costs to treat victims for their injuries and for mental health therapy if needed.
  5. Crime scene clean-up costs
  6. Burial and funeral costs

Avoiding Victim Restitution

Unfortunately, innocent people are arrested every day and charged with crimes they did not commit. If you have been charged with a crime and victim restitution is on the table, the best way to avoid paying it is to avoid being convicted of the crime. To that end, you will need the expert help of a criminal lawyer to defend against the charges. Victim restitution is one of many costly results of a conviction so proving your innocence is your only option. Your defense attorney will explore what the state has in evidence against you will help you decide on any plea bargains that come your way. Don't try to cope with this situation using a public defender – you need someone ready to spend the time that is needed to end things successfully.

For more information about victim restitution, contact a criminal law attorney near you.