Restitution in Georgia
In the criminal justice system, restitution means payment by an offender to the victim for harm caused by the offender's wrongful acts. Courts have the authority to order convicted persons to pay restitution to the victim as part of their punishment or sentencing. Restitution is only ordered after the offender has been found guilty. However, the amount of restitution can be limited based on numerous factors and your ability to pay. We urge you to speak with one of our criminal lawyers in Georgia if you think you may be ordered to pay restitution and see how we can help.
What Types of Costs can be Covered by Restitution?
Restitution is intended to cover out-of-pocket losses directly related to the crime. It will not include things like pain and suffering, mental anguish, or loss of consortium. Those types of damages can be argued in a civil suit against the offender. Restitution covers costs that are easy to prove things for which a victim might have a bill or a receipt.
Losses that can be recovered through restitution include:
- Medical expenses
- Therapy costs
- Prescription charges
- Counseling costs
- Lost wages
- Value from lost or damaged property
- Costs of transportation to and from court proceedings
- Other expenses that resulted directly from the crime
A person can receive restitution for their losses and compensation for their pain and suffering. However, they cannot collect both restitution and compensation for the same losses.
Furthermore, the amount of restitution order will never exceed the victim's damages. O.C.G.A. §17-14-9
Factors Considered When Court Determines Restitution
When courts are considering restitution, there are several factors they look at. O.C.G.A. § 17-14-10 outlines the factors judges and prosecutors may consider when determining the nature and amount of restitution:
- The financial resources and other assets of the offender or person ordered to pay restitution including whether any of the assets are jointly controlled;
- The earnings and other income of the offender or person ordered to pay restitution;
- Any financial obligations of the offender or person ordered to pay restitution, including obligations to dependents;
- The amount of damages;
- The goal of restitution to the victim and the goal of rehabilitation of the offender;
- Any restitution previously made;
- The period of time during which the restitution order will be in effect; and
- Other factors which the ordering authority deems to be appropriate.
While the Court considers many factors, it is in your best interest to hire a criminal defense lawyer in Georgia that will aggressively advocate to limit the amount of restitution in your case.
What To Do If You Can't Afford to Pay Restitution
Our Georgia Criminal Lawyers understand that as a criminal defendant, you may be facing the prospect of paying restitution. However, just because there are damages does not mean that you will be required to completely pay all of the alleged victims damages. As stated in the previous paragraph, there are numerous factors to be considered when determining restitution under O.C.G.A § 17-14-10. When ordering restitution, courts don't just look at the victim's losses but also at the offender's ability to pay. In addition, your Georgia Criminal Lawyer has the ability to request a hearing to determine what the damages are. Your amount can be fixed by what you are able to pay instead of the total amount that the alleged victim says is owed.
Your attorney can also request that the restitution is made in multiple payments if you are unable to pay all at once. If the payment is not made in one lump sum, then installments may be paid to a court clerk or a probation officer. If the restitution order is issued with the probation, then payments will be made to the probation officer. If not, then payments will be made the court clerk.
Can a Juvenile be Required to Pay Restitution?
Yes. According to O.C.G.A. §17-14-5, even juveniles deemed delinquent may have to provide restitution. If the juvenile turns twenty-one before the terms of the restitution order are completed, then the order shall be transferred to superior court. The order can also be transferred to superior court once the juvenile has reached 18 years old.
If the Court deems that the juvenile is or will be unable to pay all of the restitution ordered, the Court may order the parents to pay any portion of the restitution ordered that is outstanding. However, the Court must find by clear and convincing evidence that the parents knew or should have known of the juvenile's propensity to commit such acts and the acts were due to the parent's negligence or reckless disregard for the juvenile's propensity to commit such acts. The Court will provide the parents for an opportunity to be heard in court. If parents are required to pay the rest of the restitution order, the Court will allow for payments to be made in installments. In addition, once the juvenile turns 18 years old, the parental obligation to pay restitution is terminated.
Information for Victims Seeking Restitution
If you are a victim and believe you are entitled to restitution, it is critical to let the prosecutor know. Another important step is to keep track of your damages and other expenses, including lost wages, medical bills, etc.
At our office, we will always fight to protect your rights! We understand the intricacies of the criminal justice system and how to make them work for you. Call now to speak with Georgia's premier criminal defense firm.