Restitution as a Penalty in Criminal Cases

If you are convicted of an offense that harmed another person, as part of your penalties you might be ordered to pay restitution. This type of punishment is the court’s way of compensating the alleged victim for losses or expenses they suffered as a result of the incident.

For instance, in October of 2019, three Californians were convicted of committing a white-collar crime. The individuals allegedly conducted bogus real estate transactions using fictitious title and escrow companies.

Between 2014 and 2016, the individuals supposedly stole identities and created fake places of employment, websites, and email addresses. The defendants would then have lending companies transfer funds into the bank accounts for the fraudulent escrow and title companies.

The alleged fraud scheme resulted in the theft of over $1.4 million. Aside from being sentenced to prison, the three defendants were also ordered to pay in restitution the amount supposedly stolen.

California’s Restitution Laws

According to California Penal Code 1202.4, if you are found guilty of an offense, the court may decide to impose two types of restitution on you: Direct Order or Fine. Restitution is ordered during the sentencing hearing.

What Is a Direct Order of Restitution?

A direct order of restitution is that paid to the victim, and is in place to cover various expenses, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Value of stolen or damaged property
  • Medical expenses
  • Mental health treatment
  • Lost wages
  • Security system installation (if related to the crime)
  • Attorneys fees
  • Costs to retrofit a vehicle or home (if the victim became disabled as a result of the crime)
  • Psychological harm (if the conviction was for felony child molestation)

There is no maximum as to how much a judge can order for victim restitution. If you are subject to this penalty, you must pay it directly to the victim.

What Is a Restitution Fine?

The second type of restitution you may be ordered to pay is a restitution fine. This penalty is imposed to pay the State back for the offense committed. You pay restitution fines to the Victims Compensation and Government Claims Board.

For misdemeanors, the restitution fine amount ranges from $150 to $1,000.

Restitution for felony crimes is set between $300 and $10,000.

When setting the felony restitution fine, the judge may:

  • Take the minimum fine amount,
  • Multiply the minimum by the number of years you’re sentenced to prison, and then
  • Multiply that product by the number of felony charges you were convicted of

Although the judge can take various factors into consideration when determining how much to order you to pay, they will not consider whether or not you have the financial means to fulfill this obligation. However, in some cases, your inability to pay could be considered if the judge decides to increase the restitution amount above the minimum.

When determining how much to set the restitution fine, the judge will look at the:

  • Seriousness of the offense
  • Circumstances of the crime
  • Defendant’s economic gain from the offense
  • Losses suffered by others (if any)
  • Number of victims of the offense

For instance, if you were convicted of grand theft and forgery and sentenced to 6 years in prison, the judge could take the minimum restitution fine of $300, multiply it by the 6-year incarceration term, which is $1,800. Then, they could multiply that $1,800 by 2 (since you were convicted of 2 felonies) to get an amount of $3,600.

Schedule a Free Consultation with The Law Office of Brian C. Andritch

If you are convicted of an offense, you could be facing serious monetary penalties, which may severely impact your finances. When you hire our attorney for legal defense, we will fight hard toward a favorable outcome in your case.

For hard-hitting legal counsel in Fresno, call us at (559) 484-2112 or contact us online.