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.
Georgia deems that restitution is a primary concern of the criminal justice system and the juvenile justice system. O.C.G.A. §17-14-1
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
The Court looks at multiple factors when considering how much restitution should be paid to the victim. They include:
- Financial resources and other assets of the offender
- Earnings and other income of the offender
- Any financial obligations of the offender including obligations to dependents
- Amount of damages
- Goal of providing restitution to the victim and the goal of rehabilitation to the offender
- Any restitution previously made
- The period of time during which the restitution order would be in effect
- Any other factors the Court deems 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 for the desired amount of restitution in your case.
How is Restitution Recovered?
To increase your likelihood that restitution will be ordered in your case, it is critical that you gather information about your financial loss. Courts will not force the offender to pay money based on estimates. They want proof of loss, receipts for therapy or counseling costs, etc. If you plan on seeking restitution, it is best if you start documenting losses from the very beginning. Let your Georgia Criminal Attorney know so they can be prepared to request restitution as part of any plea agreement, sentence, or condition of probation.
Courts may order restitution be paid in full or partial payment. When ordering restitution, courts don't just look at the victim's losses but also at the offender's ability to pay. A judge may reduce the amount of restitution if the offender is unlikely to be able to pay it.
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.
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