Restitution is a court-ordered payment to compensate a victim of a crime for monetary losses that stemmed from a criminal act. The convicted offender could be ordered by the sentencing judge to pay restitution while he or she is on probation. The victim of theft, for example, could receive restitution from the convicted offender to compensate the person for the money or property lost. Reimbursement for uninsured medical expenses or out-of-pocket expenses for the victim of a violent crime is another example of when a judge in Florida could order restitution.
Judges in Florida can order the convicted offender to pay restitution any time a victim of the crime suffers a financial loss. Restitution is not the equivalent of a personal injury settlement. The sentencing judge has no discretion to order restitution for emotional distress, but could order the offender to pay restitution for any financial loss connected to the crime as a means to restore the victim to the same financial position as they were in before the crime occurred.
Since restitution is an order of the court, the ramifications of failing to comply with the restitution order are severe. If restitution is ordered as a term of probation, then the failure to pay restitution could allow the judge to revoke the probationary sentence and impose a prison or jail sentence. The offender must have proper notice of the condition that payment of restitution while on probation is required. Although restitution is most frequently ordered when a person is placed on probation, the sentencing judge could impose a restitution order on a person sentenced to prison or impose the payment of restitution as the only penalty in the case. As with every criminal case, the facts and circumstances of the incident will determine if restitution is warranted, and if so, the amount of restitution the judge will impose.
Florida judges do not have the discretion to revoke probation for failure to pay restitution without holding a hearing first. The judge must receive evidence on the probationer’s financial situation before ruling. The judge will look into whether the person is employed, how much money the person makes, the prospects of the person to find a suitable job, the financial obligations of the individual such as child support, alimony, or other court-ordered obligations, the individual’s financial resources, and any other circumstances that help the court obtain a complete financial picture of the probationer before revoking probation.
Crimes in Florida Most Commonly Associated with Restitution Orders
Any individual charged with a crime that injures another person could be responsible for paying restitution as a competent of the sentence imposed in the case. Property crimes such as theft, identity theft, fraud, embezzlement, and robbery are common crimes for which restitution is a part of the criminal sanction. However, assaultive crimes such as hate crimes, domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, sexual battery, and other crimes.
Restitution is a criminal sanction, or punishment. Therefore, the prosecution must ask for restitution as part of the disposition of the case. The defense could agree to pay restitution in exchange for a reduced sanction as part of plea negotiations. If the parties cannot agree on if restitution should be ordered, how much, or to whom, then the judge will conduct a restitution hearing to sort all of that evidence out.
The prosecution is obligated to convince the judge that restitution should be paid. The prosecutor could call the victim as a witness and offer evidence about the extent of the person’s injuries and how much money he or she lost as a result of the crime. The judge could rule that the prosecution has failed to prove that restitution is fair and reasonable under the circumstances, and, therefore, enter an order of no restitution. Otherwise, the judge could determine a dollar amount and order a timeframe for when the payments must be made.
The judge could order restitution as reimbursement for any loss directly or indirectly related to the crime for which the person was convicted. The losses must be linked to the criminal act, either directly or indirectly. As a result, the restitution amounts owed to a victim or the victim’s family if the victim is deceased, could be exorbitant. The judge could order restitution for losses such as uninsured costs, funeral costs, medical bills not paid by insurance, lost income, physical rehabilitation, therapy, lost wages, replacement value of any property damaged or stolen, or other costs associated with the crime. The judge could order the offender to pay restitution for an insurance deductible if the victim had insurance. Otherwise, the court could order the offender to pay restitution to the insurance company or victim services group which indemnified the victims.
The sentencing judge will examine the person’s ability to pay, if any. If the offender has no ability to pay the restitution amount, then the judge could order the imposition of a lien, enforceable in civil court, against the offender’s property. In Florida, this type of order is known as a criminal order of restitution.
Every effort must be made to pay restitution to the victim. Restitution is paid into the court and the court distributes the funds. As a result, the court could keep track of the payments made. Stopping payment is the worst mistake a person could make. The court will review a person’s ability to pay if he or she cannot satisfy the original restitution order.
The mechanism to change the restitution amount is a motion to modify it. The probation officer monitoring restitution could commence probation violation proceedings for non-payment of restitution. A violation of probation could result in additional penalties, including incarceration. However, when the offender files a motion to modify restitution, the court could consider the person’s ability to pay, the conduct of the person (such as whether the person is making a genuine effort to pay restitution and cannot or is trying to avoid paying restitution), and the effect the current restitution order has on the person’s life. The judge could reduce the monthly restitution obligation instead of terminating the restitution order altogether. Accordingly, anyone who is in danger of falling behind on restitution payments should move to modify the order before probation violation proceedings commence.
Aggressive Florida Restitution Defense Lawyers on Your Side
A restitution order is a serious legal obligation, and Florida judges do not take the failure to pay restitution lightly. If you have been charged with a victim-related crime in Florida, call Musca Law right not at (888) 484-5057 to obtain the expert legal advice you need to avoid paying restitution altogether, or help you find a reasonable solution to get you back on track. It is important to remember that restitution is a valuable negotiation point, which, if used wisely and effectively could help you avoid jail while making the alleged victims whole.