Criminal Restitution Civil Judgment
Did you know that if you’ve been convicted of a crime, you might have to compensate the victim for the financial losses resulting from your conduct? In Pennsylvania, you may face a criminal restitution civil judgment in addition to paying a fine and serving jail time. A prosecutor can ask you to compensate the victim for losses such as medical expenses for victims of violent crimes, or a decrease in value of the victim’s property for victims of property crimes. So long as these damages or injuries resulted directly from your criminal actions, you may be ordered to pay a criminal restitution civil judgment.
Pennsylvania Criminal Code Title 18, Chapter 11, §1106 governs the general principles of criminal restitution. It specifies that no matter how much money you might have or your ability to afford payments, you’ll still need to compensate the victim for his or her financial losses. It also doesn’t matter whether the victim received compensation from the Crime Victim’s Compensation Board. In that case, the court would order you to reimburse the compensation board or any other government agency that compensated the victim.
How You’ll Have to Pay
In some situations, you may need to compensate multiple parties. In these cases, §1106 specifies that you would need to provide compensation in the following order:
- The victims
- The Crime Victim’s Compensation Board
- Any other government agency that has provided compensation to the victim
- Any insurance company that has provided reimbursement to the victim
The prosecutor must recommend a restitution amount before the sentencing hearing, and in response the court may order you to pay in a lump sum or monthly installments.
If you fail to comply with the restitution order within 20 days of its issuance, the court might consider you to be in contempt of court. In such a case, the court has the authority to imprison you for up to six months (or until you comply with the restitution order). The court can also place you on probation and fine you up to $1,000. If paying restitution to the victim was part of a parole or probation arrangement, you may face additional penalties from the parole or probation board.
Finally, the crime victim can still sue you in civil court for compensation for his or her damages. An order of restitution by a criminal court will not affect the victim’s right to obtain a civil judgment against you.
Restitution Laws for Other Crimes
Pennsylvania Criminal Code Title 18, Chapter 11, §1107 applies specifically to the victims of identity theft and hacking fraud. It provides that victims are entitled to compensation for the expenses they incurred investigating the fraud and litigating the matter in civil courts. They also may receive restitution for the efforts they made toward restoring their credit score. Thus, a prosecutor may ask you to pay restitution to a victim for his or her civil court and lawyer’s fees, and the costs of hiring an accountant and dealing with credit bureaus.
Another restitution law is found in §1110, which specifies that someone convicted of running a drug lab will be liable for reimbursing the labor and equipment costs of the cleanup.
Fighting a Restitution Order
The best way to avoid having to pay restitution is obtaining a judgment of not guilty. This is because a restitution order can only be applied to someone who has been convicted of a crime. If you hire a skilled Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney as soon as you are charged, then there is a chance that you may not have to pay any restitution fees.
If you’ve already been convicted, one of the criminal restitution lawyers can help you. We’ve successfully represented our clients at restitution hearings by disputing the prosecution’s demands. They often exaggerate the initial restitution amount with the expectation that the defendant and his or her counsel will challenge it. We know what the prosecution can and cannot ask for, so we may be able to help you trim the restitution you owe to a reasonable number.
If you’re facing a restitution hearing or just want to know more about your rights and options with regard to a criminal restitution civil judgment, you can contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146 today for a free consultation regarding your case.