Restitution is not punishment, it is a court order to a convicted defendant to pay you for the losses you incurred as the direct result of the crime(s) committed by the defendant. In ordering restitution, the court must consider all of your economic losses caused by the criminal offense(s) for which the defendant is convicted. Restitution is most often ordered at the time of sentencing and may include: medical expenses, funeral costs, expenses for counseling, moving and basic living necessities, lost or damaged property, and lost wages.
Restitution is mandatory. For example, filing bankruptcy does not excuse a defendant from a restitution order. The sentencing judge is required by law to consider a defendant's economic circumstances (ability to pay) when entering an order for restitution. This means, for example, that if a defendant is convicted of stealing your $9,000 car, the judge must order him to pay $9,000 in restitution to you. Because of the defendant's ability to pay, however, the judge may also order that the defendant's method of paying the $9,000, be monthly payments of $30. A monthly court-ordered restitution payment of $30, on a full restitution order of $9,000, would require 25 years of regular payments for the economic loss to be fully recovered. Unfortunately, this means that restitution as a reliable form of reimbursement for victim losses, even though it is court-ordered often becomes improbable.
A defendant who is ordered to jail or prison, with rare exception, will not be required to begin making restitution payments until his release. The Court may order that restitution be paid within a certain period of time, or it may order that payments be made in specified (monthly) installments as noted in the above example. A probation officer, or other agent with responsibility for monitoring restitution payments of a defendant serving a probation sentence, is required to notify the supervising court upon finding that a defendant has become two full (monthly) payments in arrears. This notification (memorandum) must: 1) propose a modification to the monthly payment amount; 2) recommend that probation be revoked; or 3) outline the reasons for the delinquencies and how long it is expected to continue.
Defendants are required to make their court-ordered restitution payments to a county's Superior Court Clerk's Office. Within 15 days of receipt, the Clerk's Office is required to disburse the restitution monies according to the court's order. If the amount of any single disbursement to a victim would be less than $10, the Clerk's Office may withhold payment until a minimum of $10 is collected. Disbursement of restitution monies in no event however, should go beyond 90 days following receipt of payment from a defendant.
If you are entitled to restitution by court order, you have the right to file a restitution lien against any assets (personal and real property) held by the defendant. The filing of a lien gives notice to all persons dealing with the defendant or dealing with the property identified in the lien, of your interest in that property, or property later acquired in the name of the defendant. The advocates of the Office of Victim Services can assist you with filing a restitution lien if you are a victim in a case handled by the Attorney General's office.
Criminal Restitution Orders
A criminal offender's restitution obligation to you ends when they have served their sentence. When this occurs, and restitution has not been fully paid, the court can enter a "criminal restitution order" for the unpaid balance. This order may be recorded and enforced as any civil judgment, but does not require renewal. You should contact the prosecuting attorney to request assistance in asking the Court for such an order at the time the sentence ends.