A restitution order is payment made to a victim of a crime for any economic loss they suffered as a result of a crime. For instance, did you get into an accident while driving a car under the influence of alcohol? If so, in addition to restitution fine you may face as a result of a conviction or plea, you may be ordered to pay a restitution order to the owner of the car, if it has been damaged. Other types of damages that can be considered as a part of restitution include medical bills, lost wages, counseling services, or the value of stolen property.
Be aware that the definition of “victim” is broad. California Penal Code section 1202.4(k).
If you enter into a plea bargain, part of that agreement may be that you agree to pay victim restitution. However, there are times that the amount may not be specifically set. If the amount of restitution cannot be determined at the time of sentencing, the court retains jurisdiction to determine and set the amount. So, the amount will be set at a Restitution Hearing.
The defendant will be given notice of a restitution hearing, if it is not held concurrently with sentencing, and the victim may even be present. The victim must present evidence showing (1) that there were losses, (2) that the losses were caused by the crime committed by the defendant, and (3) that the defendant's conduct was a "substantial factor" in causing the events that harmed the victim. The victim can provide documentary evidence such as bills or business records, or merely oral testimony to determine the amount of restitution. The standard of proof is by a preponderance of the evidence, which is a lower standard than is required in the actual criminal trial.
If you have been charged with a crime and have questions about California's victim restitution laws, or to discuss your case confidentially with one of the California criminal defense attorneys at Bristol, Haynes & Associates @ (909) 466-5575.