Restitution issues are big in criminal defense. Especially in the San Fernando Valley courts and also in downtown Los Angeles surrounding courts in LA county. The biggest thing is that the prosecutors and judges feel it’s their duty to get people compensated for any losses they may have related to any type of criminal conduct. So, the legislature has passed a bunch of laws that are very pro-victim when it comes to restitution. Victims are trying to get all sorts of restitution – even if they’ve been paid back by their insurance companies.
If you’ve got a restitution issue in Los Angeles County or one of the San Fernando Valley courts, you want to have an attorney who obviously knows what they’re doing and has handled these types of cases before. What a lot of people don’t realize is that if a bunch of restitution is owed in a criminal case, you paying that restitution up-front is usually a nice bargaining chip for your criminal defense attorney to try to work a nice deal out for you.
But, even if you can’t pay it — which are a lot of people are not able to pay it back — you’re still going to be ordered to pay it and they’re going to make you pay whatever you can monthly. If you get probation, then the probation department will work on how much money you can afford to pay per month. They’re going to keep making you pay it until it’s paid off. Eventually, if the probation ends or is terminated for some reason, then they’ll probably be a civil judgment assessed against you related to that restitution.
So, it doesn’t go away. That’s why a lot of times when I do these cases, if people can come up with the money, I encourage them to do so, because if I can tell the prosecutor we got the money. We can pay the person back, then I’ve got a strong argument that this person shouldn’t get any jail time but should be given credit for helping make the victim whole.
Another issue that comes up in these restitution cases relates to actually how much you owe in restitution or whether you owe restitution. Sometimes you can be involved in a criminal case and be responsible criminally, but there’s an argument that you’re not responsible for the particular victim for the loss of their money. They may have lost money or product or injury or whatever it is, and that may not be your fault.
The first thing you want to do is not admit liability for purposes of restitution in a criminal case. Sometimes you cannot avoid doing it. You’ve got to admit liability because the prosecutors won’t give you a deal otherwise. They’ll say listen, we’ll offer to settle the case. We’ll give your client this, but we want them to admit liability for purposes of restitution and if they don’t we won’t give them a deal. So, sometimes you can argue that; sometimes you can’t. Other times, you can admit responsibility or liability but then you would be entitled to have a hearing on any restitution issue. So, if the alleged victim is trying to claim thousands of dollars in restitution that are not warranted, you would then be entitled to have a hearing. Evidence would be put on by the prosecution on behalf of the victim. You could put on evidence through your attorney, and ultimately, the judge is going to decide number one, whether you owe any restitution in the case and number two, if you do owe restitution how much it’s going to be and then they’re going to order you to pay that amount of restitution.
I’m just telling you, most of the case law — since I’ve battled restitution cases of twenty-five years — most of the case law favors the victim. The legislature is trying to help the victim the best they can. Again, trying to get them compensated for any injuries or losses that they have related to any criminal activity.
Every single case where there’s a victim, the judge and prosecutor are going to be looking at and talking about restitution. So, be prepared for that. Your attorney has to be prepared for that and give them all the information so they can properly defend you in the case. There’s also what’s called a Victim’s Restitution Fund in all the courts in Los Angeles, and basically, that’s money that every single criminal defendant who gets convicted of a crime has to pay a couple of hundred dollars or a hundred dollars into the victim restitution fund fine, and that money is supposed to be used to help victims of crime.
So, this whole restitution issue is a big one. It’s important. Obviously, you want to huddle up with your criminal defense attorney. If you’ve got a criminal case and you’re concerned about the whole restitution issue, let your attorney know from the beginning what your position is on restitution and then as your attorney deals with the case, they can be looking to try to protect your interest as it relates to restitution. I get in arguments with prosecutors all the time across Los Angele county, in the Valley, in downtown Los Angeles, the west side, the Airport Court, I’m arguing with them all the time regarding restitution and basically saying no, my client should not have to pay that. Fine, you may have him on some sort of a crime, but whatever crime they committed has to actually have a connection or a relationship to whatever restitution you’re trying to get and if it doesn’t my client doesn’t have to pay it.
So, bottom line is, if you have a restitution issue, give me a call. If you have a criminal matter and it relates to restitution, call me. We’ll sit down. We’ll strategize and figure out how to deal with it.
For more information on Restitution In Criminal Defense Cases, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (213) 542-0940 today.