When you are convicted of a crime in California, you may be required to pay fines and serve time in jail or on probation.  On top of that, you may be required to pay “restitution.”  Restitution is money that the defendant pays the victim of a crime to help pay them back for the harms they caused.  While sending a defendant to jail might help punish them or help society, the victim may face medical bills or property damage.  Restitution helps pay for these kinds of harms, and it goes directly to the victim.  But how is restitution calculated?  A Ventura criminal defense lawyer at The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth explain.

Why Do I Have to Pay Restitution on My Criminal Case?

Before understanding how restitution is calculated, it is important to understand why restitution exists in the first place.  When someone is the victim of a crime, they have two possible ways of being punished.  The victim can report the crime to the police, and the defendant can face the consequences in the criminal court system.  A victim can also sue the defendant in civil court to seek monetary damages for the harms they suffered.  In many cases, you can face both criminal and civil penalties for the crime you committed.

Some examples of facing both criminal and civil penalties are as follows:

  • If the defendant punches the victim in the face, the victim can report them for assault and take them to civil court for assault and battery.
  • If the defendant drives drunk and crashes their car into the victim’s car, the victim can report them for DUI and take them to civil court for a car accident claim.
  • If the defendant steals money from the victim, they can report them for theft and take them to civil court for “conversion.”

Fines and imprisonment may help “punish” someone who committed a crime, but these penalties do not help the victim.  If the victim faced medical bills, property damage, or other financial harms, they may want to take the defendant to civil court to recover those costs.

In many cases, the defendant’s conviction in criminal court can be used against them as evidence if the case goes to trial in civil court.  That makes it easier for the victim to prove their civil case if the criminal case has already finished.  It also means that the courts – and the defendant – double-up on the expense of having a second trial.

When a court orders restitution on a criminal case, it serves three main purposes.  First, it helps the victim get compensation for the harms they personally suffered.  Second, it protects the defendant from having to go to court again.  If the victim already has compensation from the restitution, they may have no need to take the defendant to civil court and go through the process again.  Third, this saves the court and the government the additional expense of having a second trial on the same case if the victim is already satisfied with their restitution.

Calculating Restitution Amounts in a California Criminal Case

Calculating restitution is very similar to calculating damages in a civil case.  In both instances, the court looks at what financial harms the victim faced, and it finds the grand total.  For instance, an assault victim who was punched in the face might need stitches and a new pair of glasses.  The cost of that medical treatment, plus the property damage, would likely all be ordered as restitution.

In some cases, statutes give specific instructions on what to include as restitution.  For example, Larceny under CA Penal Code § 484.1 covers the crime of selling something to a pawnshop after stealing it.  This crime specifically authorizes restitution paid to the pawnshop that bought the stolen item, since the police need to take the item back and give it back to the rightful owner.  When the law introduces specific items for restitution, these are usually used in addition to the general restitution values.  That means that you may be ordered to pay restitution to the pawnbroker, but if the item cannot be returned to its original owner, you may also be forced to pay the original owner for the value of the stolen item.

Some common examples of restitution ordered in California are:

  • Medical expenses for injured victims,
  • Money to pay for property damage,
  • Payback for expenses the victim made because of the crime (g. upgraded security),
  • Payments for the expenses emergency responders incurred,
  • Losses that a business suffered because they had to close due to your crime, and
  • The value of stolen items (but returning the stolen item often satisfies this cost).

Ventura Criminal Defense Lawyers Offering Free Consultations

If you or a loved one was charged with a crime, talk to an attorney today.  If you are forced to pay high fines, pay restitution, and spend time in jail, your penalties may become extremely high.  The Ventura criminal lawyers at The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth offer free consultations on criminal cases.  To schedule your free consultation, call our law offices today at (805) 643-5555.