Restitution is the payment made by a convicted criminal to the victim or victims of his or her crime. Judges in the state of Florida may require a restitution payment as part of the sentence for a crime if the victim or victims of the crime were damaged financially. Someone who sprays graffiti on the front of a business might be ordered by a court to pay for the damage, for example.
In another instance, a crime victim whose arm is broken in a mugging may receive a restitution payment for medical expenses. Restitution is designed to make the victims of crime “whole” again and to restore any finances lost as the result of a crime.
Judges in this state usually order a restitution payment as one condition of probation, although restitution can also be ordered for incarcerated offenders, or in some cases, as the sole penalty for a crime. The law in Florida specifies who may receive restitution payments and how a judge can decide the amount to be paid. The failure of a probationer to make restitution payments – when restitution is a condition of probation – may be considered grounds for revoking the probation.
Here is what the law in Florida says regarding the revocation of probation for non-payment of restitution: “If a defendant is placed on probation, any restitution ordered … shall be a condition of the probation. The court may revoke probation if the defendant fails to comply with the order.
In determining whether to revoke probation, the court shall consider the defendant’s employment status, earning ability, and financial resources; the willfulness of the defendant’s failure to pay; and any other special circumstances that may have a bearing on the defendant’s ability to pay.”
WHICH CRIME CONVICTIONS GENERATE RESTITUTION PAYMENTS?
For criminal theft and fraud convictions in this state, the payment of restitution is routinely ordered. Florida courts may also require the payment of restitution for crimes including sexual assaults, driving under the influence, crimes against the elderly, hate crimes, child abuse, domestic violence, and identity fraud. Anyone in South Florida who is charged with any of the crimes listed in this paragraph will need to obtain legal help right away and consult an experienced West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney.
If the prosecution and the defense in a Florida criminal case cannot agree on an appropriate restitution amount, the court may schedule a restitution hearing. At that hearing, a prosecutor must prove that the amount of restitution the state is asking for is reasonable under the circumstances. A crime victim may be asked to testify about his or her losses at a restitution hearing.
FOR WHAT REASONS ARE RESTITUTION PAYMENTS ORDERED?
An order to a convicted offender to pay restitution is not a “fine.” A fine is instead an amount predetermined by law and paid directly to the state. Legally speaking, restitution is not “compensation,” either. It’s a criminal punishment. Restitution is paid to a victims or victims for damages suffered, so the total restitution amount will be different in every case.
In the state of Florida, restitution payments to crime victims may be ordered for the following reasons:
– loss or damage caused indirectly or directly by the crime
– loss or damage related to the crime
– when a crime results in a victim’s bodily injury, the defendant may be ordered to pay:
– for needed medical and professional services
– for needed rehabilitation, physical therapy, and occupational therapy
– for a victim’s lost income due to the crime
– funeral and related services if the crime resulted in someone’s death
Except for domestic violence victims, whose cases are handled differently and separately, crime victims in Florida are asked by prosecutors to complete a Victim Impact Statement (VIS). The victim is asked to specify what if any expenses were incurred as the result of the crime.
Victims may be reimbursed for stolen property, damaged property, medical costs, and lost wages, but not for pain or suffering. The completed Victim Impact Statement then becomes a part of the prosecutor’s case file. Crime victims in Florida should keep and make copies of all medical bills, all related expenses, and determine the amount of any lost wages.
WHEN ORDERING RESTITUTION, WHAT DO FLORIDA JUDGES CONSIDER?
In the state of Florida, restitution is a monopoly of the state’s criminal courts and is not a substitute for other remedies that a crime victim may pursue, such as a personal injury lawsuit. “Indirect” crime victims, like a homicide victim’s survivors, may also in some cases qualify to receive restitution. When a victim has been reimbursed by an insurer, a victim services group, or a state agency, payment of restitution to the company or agency may be required by the court.
When deciding what restitution amount is proper in a specific case, a Florida judge must weigh and consider:
– the circumstances and gravity of the offense
– the victim’s losses
– the offender’s gains
– the burden imposed financially on the victim or victims
– the offender’s resources and capacity to pay
The courts will not add to someone’s criminal punishment in Florida simply because that person does not have the resources to pay restitution. If an offender in Florida has no resources for paying restitution, the court may enter a civil restitution lien against that offender. The lien will attach to the offender’s current and future assets up to the total amount of the lien.
As mentioned previously, if a probationer fails to satisfy a restitution order, probation may be revoked. At a VOP (violation of probation) hearing, a judge will assess a number of factors to determine if a failure to pay was intentional or was an unintended consequence of difficult circumstances.
If you are arrested and charged with committing a crime in Palm Beach, Broward, or Miami-Dade County, reach out – as quickly as you can – to an experienced West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney who can explain your legal rights and options, and if necessary, advocate for justice on your behalf. If you are charged with a Violation of Probation in South Florida because of the failure to make a restitution payment, you’ll need a criminal defense attorney who has abundant experience in South Florida’s criminal justice system.