Restitution and Criminal Punishment: How Do They Work?

Posted on by New Mexico Criminal Law Offices

Criminal Defense Attorney Explains Restitution for Criminal Cases in New Mexico

Restitution on a road signMany crimes carry financial losses. Victims are often the ones forced to endure these financial losses, including the loss of personal property, medical costs after an assault, or lost income. Under the Mandatory Restitution Act of 1996, the courts can determine whether restitution is warranted, and the amount of restitution the criminal defendant must pay to the victim or the victim’s family.

What Does Restitution Consist Of?

Restitution in the criminal justice system refers to the funds that the defendant must pay to the victim for any financial harm caused by their actions. The court has the discretion and authority to force a defendant to pay restitution as part of his or her criminal punishment. Some crimes carry a mandatory restitution, but this depends on the state. In New Mexico, the high courts have backed the decision to order defendants to pay restitution. In fact, a case in 2010, where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state correctly ordered restitution, proves such.

Usually, violent felony offenses include restitution, but other cases can involve restitution if there are severe financial losses. Restitution might cover the out-of-pocket costs for the victim, including:

  • Lost wages
  • Counseling
  • Prescription
  • Therapy costs
  • Medical expenses
  • Insurance deductibles and copays
  • Costs related to the criminal case (e.g., travel, child care, etc.)
  • Crime-scene cleanup
  • Lost or damaged property

Restitution is different from personal injury compensation. A victim will not receive pain and suffering or any form of compensation for his or her emotional distress. Instead, these damages only apply to what the victim physically paid for; usually, a receipt or bill is necessary to show the courts that the amounts are justified.

Will Restitution be Ordered in My Case?

It is hard to predict what the courts will do, but restitution is more likely in two situations:

  1. The victim has substantial proof of financial losses. If the victim has evidence of financial losses, and he or she can justify every loss claimed, the courts might order restitution to recover those costs.
  2. A violent crime has occurred, and the request for restitution ordered. Sometimes, the courts wait for the prosecution to issue a request for restitution. Other times, the courts offer mandatory restitution in extremely violent cases. For example, the brutal beating of a victim could result in restitution automatically – regardless of whether the prosecution submits a request.

Full Versus Partial Restitution

When restitution is ordered, the courts look at the defendant’s ability to pay. Obviously, if the accused has no way to pay the losses, it is hard to force them to do so. So, the court might reduce the amount until the offender can pay in full. Sometimes, the courts will still issue restitution in full but set monthly payments so the offender can pay off the balance in a specific amount of time.

You should note that, if you are on probation or parole and have a restitution payment schedule, missing a payment could result in a revocation of your probation or parole. Typically, timely payments are part of your release conditions.

Consult With a Defense Attorney About Possible Restitution

Restitution is ordered upon conviction, and is part of your criminal punishment. Therefore, you may have jail time and other penalties in addition to restitution. To avoid these harsh penalties, speak with a criminal defense attorney from the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices quickly. Call us now at 505-375-4671 or send us an inquiry online.