What is Restitution?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 04 February 2020
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Restitution refers to money or goods given by a person convicted of a criminal or civil violation to the victim of that violation. This can take a number of forms, though it typically covers expenses directly caused by the action of the convicted party, and does not include punitive damages or legal fines. The victim in a case may need to prove how much money or property was lost due to the actions of the convicted individual, and those ordered to make payments can argue against the decision in a separate hearing.

While restitution can be ordered in a criminal or civil case, it is not the same as punitive damages or compensation for future problems. Restitution is typically directly related to the actions of a person during the commission of a crime, or in violation of a contract or property ownership. It usually represents money or property directly lost due to the actions of a person, or that the actions can clearly be seen as costing a victim. If someone steals money from someone else, then the repayment of that money after conviction would constitute restitution; money paid due to mental distress would involve punitive damages.


There are a number of different types of costs that can be recovered in this way, though a victim will often need to prove that such costs were incurred by the actions of the convicted party. Someone convicted of vehicular manslaughter in a traffic accident, for example, could be ordered to pay restitution for the amount of money needed to repair or replace a damaged vehicle, as well as funeral costs for the person who died as a result of the accident. If a person was convicted of armed robbery and battery, then he or she may be ordered to pay back the amount that was stolen as well as medical expenses caused by the assault.

Restitution can be ordered by a court during the conclusion of the hearing for a case, after conviction. It can also be ordered after the conclusion of a case, during a restitution hearing. The victim of an incident can call for such a hearing, and may need to present evidence that demonstrates actual losses incurred as a direct result of the incident. Someone ordered to pay restitution can also call for a hearing to argue that he or she should not have to pay the amount ordered, and may need to present evidence as to why such payment is excessive or unwarranted.


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Post 2

I believe the court will allow the defendant to offer a reasonable restitution payment plan, since many people wouldn't be able to pay off a $100,000 judgment for criminal restitution immediately. I had a neighbor who was ordered to pay restitution for damages he caused when he crashed his car into a fence. His insurance company paid for some of the property damage, but he also destroyed a brand new $5000 plasma television sitting on the back porch.

The judge allowed him to make financial reparations on a monthly basis. The purpose of a writ of restitution isn't to drive the guilty party into bankruptcy, but to make the injured party whole again.

Post 1

I remember a TV courtroom judge once explained restitution on her show. She said restitution was only intended to make a person whole again, not better than they were before the incident. If the defendant crashed into the plaintiff's 1979 Buick LeSabre with 200,000 miles on it, the plaintiff would only receive the assessed monetary value of that vehicle, not enough money to replace it with a 2014 Corvette. Other damages would also be calculated just to the point of fair market value.

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