Restitution is a court-ordered payment, made by the person or persons who committed the crime, to the victim. It's designed to compensate a victim for his or her losses, and may even be a condition of your parole or probation. If you've been ordered to pay restitution, these are some things that you should know.
1. You may be responsible for the entire debt, even if you didn't do the crime alone.
You may have committed the crime with a couple friends. For example, you and two friends had a foolish moment where you broke into a convenience store and robbed it. All of you may be required to pay that court-ordered restitution jointly and severally. This means that even if you only committed 1/3 of the damage, you're on the hook for all of the restitution if the other two people fail to pay their restitution. While it might not seem fair to you, the law is oriented around the victim and the damages that the victim suffers. Consequently, it tries to maximize the possibility that the victim will recover for his or her losses.
2. You cannot get rid of restitution through bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy relief laws don't apply to restitution. If you fail to pay the restitution as required, it can be put into collections, damage your credit rating, and stay hanging around indefinitely until you pay it. Restitution can also be collected out of things like your future tax returns and inheritances.
3. You can end up back in jail if you fail to pay the restitution.
If you try to ignore your restitution and you're still on probation or are on parole from jail, you can find yourself under arrest all over again for violating your agreement with the state. Your failure to make regular, timely payments can be introduced at a violation of probation (VOP) hearing or during a motion to revoke your parole. This can add to your woes -- the judge can decide not only to send you back to jail but to add to your restitution by tacking on court fees and fines.
4. You need to talk to an attorney if you can't pay your court-ordered restitution.
If you find yourself unable to make court-ordered restitution payments for any reason, you need to speak to a criminal defense attorney right away. The attorney may be able to get the victim to agree to a lump-sum payment if you or someone who cares about you is willing and able to afford one. If your financial situation is particularly rough, due to an illness or a job loss, the attorney can help you document your circumstances and present the case to the judge. The judge may be willing to work with you, rather than put you back in jail if you provide documentation that the issue is out of your control. You could qualify for lower payments or an extended payment schedule. In some cases, if you are ill or have a lasting disability, you may be able to have the restitution canceled.
To learn more, contact a law firm like Rutter and Sleeth Law Offices.Share