By Donna L. Connally*
In California, criminal law courts are required to order a convicted defendant to pay restitution to a crime victim. Too often, defendants have no idea how much money might be involved. You, as a defendant, need to remember three key points about restitution when choosing your criminal law defense attorney:
(1) You need an attorney who will discuss victim restitution with you early;
(2) You are entitled to a court hearing on the amount of victim restitution you are ordered to pay; and
(3) Your criminal law defense attorney must understand restitution law to fully advise you.
Victims can claim restitution for any economic loss. Restitution can consist of many things. Common restitution orders include costs of personal injury and property damage. The exact costs are computed from such things as actual monetary losses; vehicle repairs; lost wages; and medical treatment and/or counseling.
Some defendants enter into plea bargain agreements (i.e., plead “guilty” or “no contest”) without thinking about or receiving proper advice on the amount of victim restitution that will have to be paid. A court will order a convicted person to pay restitution to a victim whether the person is found guilty by “plea” or in a trial. I have had clients who came to me after entering a plea and only later finding out that restitution was going to be in the tens-of-thousands of dollars. They thought the total restitution figure might be wrong, or anticipated trouble in paying the amount, and/or feared possible negative effects on their residency/immigration status.
Restitution orders can cause more harm to you, your family, and lifestyle than some other punishments in your case. Choose your criminal law attorney wisely.
*Ms. Connally’s law firm, Connally Criminal Law, is based in San Bernardino County, California. Since 1996, she has practiced exclusively criminal law defense, serving clients in the Victorville, Barstow, Chino, Fontana, San Bernardino, and Rancho Cucamonga courts. This article discusses only California law. It should not be relied upon as a full and extensive statement of the law, or as advice in any particular case.
–Property of Donna L. Connally/Connally Criminal Law; www.noquitdefense.com—