Restitution pays a victim back for actual expenses incurred as a result of being a crime victim. In order to receive restitution, the defendant needs to be convicted of the crime and a judge will order an amount for them to pay to the victim. This can sometimes look different if the individual who committed the crime is under the age of 18. But ultimately, it’s the judge who orders the amount of restitution to be paid.
Eligibility for Restitution
Restitution can be an option for many victims of crime. In fact, many states require mandatory restitution for identity fraud, hate crimes, crimes against the elderly, sexual assault, domestic violence, and all types of child abuse.
Typically, victims who have directly suffered injury or financial loss as a result of the crime they experienced are eligible to receive restitution if the individual is identified and convicted. If an individual is murdered, the surviving family members or dependents of the victim may be eligible as well.
Restitution can also be ordered for organizations and companies (such as a store or a school) and restitution can also be given to a victim service agency that provides financial assistance to support a need that would be covered under restitution for a crime victim. For example, if a victim services agency pays to replace a window broken during a crime, as an immediate need, the agency can be reimbursed through restitution. In this case, the victim would no longer be entitled to restitution for the broken window. They would still be entitled to restitution for any other financial loss related to the crime.
Expenses Covered by Restitution
The type of expenses that restitution could cover may vary from state to state. Some allowable expenses could include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost wages
- Medical services and equipment; or medication
- Counseling services
- Lost or damaged property; or theft of property
- Transportation to hospital, doctor’s appointments, funeral services, or court events
- Other direct out-of-pocket expenses
In order to receive restitution, the victim typically needs to request it prior to sentencing. Most District, State, or Federal Attorneys have a process to ask all victims about restitution along with other victims’ rights they may be entitled to. There are typically forms you need to fill out and documentation of expenses you need to provide. They will use that information to ask the judge to order restitution. If you believe you are entitled to restitution and have not proactively received information, ask the prosecuting attorney for more information.
If you make a request for restitution, you may need to have:
- Copies of any receipts, bills, and statements related to your expenses
- Proof of damaged, destroyed, or stolen property
- Copies of your insurance claims
- Statements from your employer detailing your lost wages
Restitution collection processes vary from location to location. To learn more about federal restitution collection, visit the U.S Department of Justice.
It is important to have realistic expectations about repayment. If the judge in your case ordered restitution to be paid to you, there are different options available for the convicted individual to pay the restitution. You may receive the payment in full or according to a payment plan which may also include the convicted individual’s court fines and fees.
If the individual is sentenced to prison, there are limited opportunities for repayment until they are released. If they are on probation, the probation officer helps with collection efforts and typically prompt payment of restitution is a condition of supervision. In some situations, it may be possible to garnish wages.
Every situation is different. If the individual who harmed you is under supervision, reach out to the probation or parole officer for help with understanding your post-conviction victim rights and how restitution payment will look in your case.
Visit our VictimConnect Resource Map for additional resources or contact the VictimConnect Resource Center by phone or text at 1-855-4-VICTIM or by chat for more information or assistance in locating services that can help you or a loved one with understanding restitution.