If you, the defendant of a crime, caused harm to a victim, you will be ordered to pay something known as “restitution” to pay for these wrongful acts. A large percentage of states in the U.S. offer restitution through the court as a way for victims to recover, specifically in violent felony offenses but many other offenses as well. Restitution works as a way to cover medical expenses, therapy costs, prescription charges, counseling, lost wages, lost or damaged property, and more.

What’s the Difference Between Fines and Restitution? 

As you probably already know, fines are a common way to punish defendants for a wide variety of crimes. When a crime is committed, fines will go to the state or federal government that is prosecuting the crime. Restitution is different, though, as it is paid directly to the victim or to a state restitution fund. Let’s say that you fraudulently scammed somebody out of welfare – in these cases, you would be forced to pay back the money that was fraudulently taken. You see lots of cases where restitution is ordered as a way to compensate victims for physical injuries caused by their crime, replace stolen goods, or to pay for funeral costs if the victim dies.

However, restitution is not usually found alone. They may combine it with other penalties such as a fine, prison time, community service, or some other type of punishment. Restitution can be collected two different ways, to ensure that the defendant actually pays:

  • Probation Condition: Sometimes, when probation is granted, restitution must be paid in full before the defendant is released from it. If the probation officer believes that they are avoiding restitution, they could have probation revoked and instead shoot for prison time.
  • Wage Garnishment: Garnishing the defendant’s wages usually occurs after they have not made payments toward the ordered restitution. The defendant cannot be placed in jail, as the wages will be taken directly from what they make at work, or from assets. When they still don’t have the means to pay, typically restitution funds will help compensate the victim.

If you have questions regarding fines and restitution in your case, you should speak to an experienced defense attorney who understands your rights. If you are the defendant in a criminal case, you may feel confused about your options. Call us today for more information on how we can help you.