In certain criminal cases, the court may order that the defendant pay money to the victim because of the effect the crime has had on the victim. For example, if a victim was suffered severe physical or mental injuries or could no longer work their job as a result of the crime, the defendant may be ordered to pay what’s known as restitution to the victim. But how is restitution determined, and how does a victim collect from a defendant if the court orders payments? We take a closer look at restitution payments in today’s blog.
How Is Restitution Determined?
Under Minnesota law, two specific factors govern whether or not the court should allow restitution following a criminal conviction. Those two factors are:
- The amount of economic loss suffered by the victim as a result of the offense.
- The income, resources and obligations of the defendant.
In other words, the court examines the financial loss the victim suffered as a result of the crime and the ability of the defendant to be able to make payments to allow the victim to recoup this financial loss. It doesn’t always seem fair that your ability to recoup restitution is based on the offender’s ability to pay you back, but if the offender doesn’t have the means to pay and cannot earn an income that allows for repayment, you may not be able to recoup the full value of your economic loss.
Other factors that play into the restitution repayment plan include:
- The court is required to include a payment schedule for the defendant, and these payments must be within their means.
- The burden is on the defendant to produce evidence to challenge the restitution amount.
The court will look at a number of different aspects of the defendant’s financial life to help determine if payments can be made, and how much can be made each time. They may look at income from their job, other forms of income like social security, or they may simply look at the defendant’s ability to find a job that would allow for some form of repayment. For example, even if the defendant is sentenced to prison, the court will examine their ability to work while in prison and earn a small income, some of which could be earmarked for the victim. Again, it may not be much, and it might never amount to the full amount ordered, but it’s something, and that’s better than nothing.
If the offender has a probation officer, they too may require the defendant to make payments whenever possible, but the court needs to outline a specific plan for restitution. They cannot order that the defendant make small payments whenever possible, they must give a specific amount at a specific schedule. Violating this scheduled payment is not an automatic violation of their probation, so long as they can show that they do not have the economic means to meet these obligations.
Restitution is far from a perfect system, and many victims rarely get the full amount ordered, especially when large economic losses occur as a result of the crime, but it does help to provide some financial assistance to the victim and serve as another form of punishment for the offender. To learn more about restitution or avoiding a restitution order by beating the charges levied against you, reach out to Avery and the team at Appelman Law Firm today at (952) 224-2277.