The court can impose a number of different penalties on anyone who is convicted of a crime in Tampa. Most people are familiar with certain penalties such as incarceration, probation, community service, and fines. But few are aware of other penalties that offenders may face, including restitution.
What is restitution? How does it work in the state of Florida? Below, a Tampa criminal defense attorney explains everything you need to know about restitution.
What Does Restitution Mean?
Restitution is a payment made to the victim of the crime by the person who committed the crime.
Restitution payments are awarded in order to make the crime victim “whole” again. In other words, the offender must compensate the victim for the losses they have suffered as a result of the offender’s crime.
For example, if you vandalize a business by breaking the windows and destroying their inventory, the court may order you to compensate the business owner for this damage. This way, the business owner can become “whole” again by repairing the broken windows and replacing the damaged inventory.
When Does the Court Order Restitution in Tampa?
Restitution is ordered in many criminal cases. The law allows the court to order restitution if:
- A victim has suffered damages or losses as a direct or indirect result of the defendant’s crime.
- A victim has suffered damages or losses related to the defendant’s crime.
- A victim has suffered bodily injury as a result of the defendant’s crime.
Restitution is often ordered in cases involving fraud, robbery, burglary, theft, white collar crimes, vandalism, and driving under the influence.
What Expenses Does Restitution Cover?
The court can order the defendant to pay restitution to cover various types of damages and losses, including:
- Property damage repairs
- Lost/stolen property
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation expenses
- Funeral expenses
- Mental health counseling expenses
- Other out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the victim
The court cannot order a defendant to pay restitution for a victim’s pain and suffering. If a victim wants to be compensated for their pain and suffering, they must initiate a civil case against the defendant.
How Does the Court Calculate Restitution Payments?
If you are facing criminal charges, it’s important to understand how the court determines how much you should pay in restitution to your victims.
The state will send a Victim Impact Statement (VIS) to every victim of the defendant’s crime. On this VIS, the victim will be asked to specify how much compensation they are seeking for the damages and losses caused by or related to the defendant’s crime. The victim must then send this form back to the state so it can be added to the defendant’s case file.
In many cases, the state and defense are able to reach an agreement regarding the amount of restitution that the defendant must pay to their victims. But if this is not possible, the court will schedule a restitution hearing in the case. During this hearing, the burden of proof falls on the state. This means the state must prove by a preponderance of evidence the amount of damages and losses that the victim has suffered due to the defendant’s crime. The state may present receipts, bills, and other evidence to prove their case during this hearing. The victim may also be asked to appear in court for this hearing so they can provide more information regarding their losses.
What Does the Judge Consider When Determining Restitution?
Ultimately, the judge will get to decide how much the defendant pays in restitution to the victim. The judge will consider a number of factors when making this decision, including:
- The severity of the offense
- How the defendant financially benefited from committing the crime
- The defendant’s financial resources
- The defendant’s ability to pay in the future
- How the crime impacted the victim
- The losses and damages suffered by the victim
Many defendants do not have the financial resources to pay restitution to the victim. In these cases, the judge may attach what is known as a “civil restitution lien” to the defendant’s assets. This lien will also automatically attach to any assets that the defendant acquires in the future. This way, if the defendant sells any of their assets, the victim will be compensated.
How Long Will You Have to Make Restitution Payments?
The court can either order the defendant to pay restitution in specific installments or within a certain period of time. The amount of time the defendant will have to make restitution payments will vary on a case-by-case basis.
But in general, the court will order the defendant to finish making restitution payments by either:
- The end of their probation, if probation was imposed on the defendant by the court, or
- Five years after the defendant has finished their jail or prison sentence, if probation was not ordered by the court, or
- Five years after the date the defendant was sentenced, in any other case where probation or incarceration was not imposed on the defendant.
If you are ordered to pay restitution, make sure you discuss the terms with your attorney to ensure you understand when the payments must be made.
Let Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Fight Your Charges
Have you been charged with a crime in Tampa? If so, it’s in your best interest to turn to the trusted criminal defense attorneys at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett for help. Our team of Tampas criminal defense attorneys has been representing the accused throughout the Tampa Bay area since 1971. We have over 125 years of combined legal experience, which means we know what it takes to win. Let us put our resources and skills to work for you.
Let us work tirelessly to fight your charges and reach the best possible outcome in your case. Call 877-728-9653 now or fill out the form on this website to schedule a free consultation with our team.