Understanding Restitution for California Crime Victims

A new resource center will help states improve the restitution process.

Understanding Restitution for California Crime Victims

If you have been the victim of a crime, it may seem as though the system is tilted against you — and in favor of the defendant. The person who allegedly committed the crime is entitled to numerous protections in the criminal justice process, while victims are often left to pick up the pieces. In many cases, going through the system may feel like another trauma. But it doesn’t have to be that way — an Irvine crime victim rights’ attorney can work with you to protect your interests and help you through the process.

In California, Marsy’s Law provides certain rights to victims of crime. This includes the right to compensation if you have suffered financial harm as a result of a crime. Under the law, victims of crime who incur any economic loss shall receive restitution directly from any defendant convicted of that crime. Victims include actual victims, immediate surviving family members of actual victims, corporations and business entities, and others who are close to the actual victim and suffer an economic loss as a result of the crime.

California law requires courts to order full restitution in criminal cases where a victim has suffered financial harm, unless there is a compelling and extraordinary reason to not do so. The simple fact that a defendant cannot afford to pay the restitution is not a good enough reason to not order full restitution.

Victims can be reimbursed for a range of losses, including:

  • Medical expenses
  • Mental health treatment
  • Lost wages or profits
  • Replacement cost or cost of repairing stolen or damaged property
  • Interest, at a rate of 10% per year, that accrues as of the date of sentencing or loss
  • Noneconomic losses for psychological harm caused by felony crimes of lewd acts of a minor
  • Attorney’s fees and other costs of collection
  • Expenses to install or increase residential security in cases involving serious or violent felonies
  • Expenses relating to retrofit a residence or vehicle due to a permanent disability caused by the crime
  • Expenses incurred by an adult victim for relocation for personal safety
  • Costs of credit monitoring and repair caused by identity theft

It is the victim’s responsibility to show that the defendant’s criminal conduct “substantially caused” these losses. An Irvine crime victim rights’ attorney can assist with proving this issue, which often includes introducing documents to demonstrate the amount spent on these items. If the defendant does not pay restitution after being ordered to do so, then you may file a lawsuit against him in civil court.

In addition to direct restitution from the defendant, crime victims may be able to recover money for crime-related losses from the California Victims Compensation Program (CalVCP). This is funded by fines paid by criminal defendants in every case, ranging from $100 to $10,000. The fund provides compensation to victims of violent crime for expenses such as funeral costs, relocation and rehabilitation.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime announced that it will create a centralized resource to help states — like California — improve their ability to order, collect, disburse, and fulfill restitution sentences. The Restitution Resource Center (RRC) will help states like California improve the quality of their restitution system by providing a source for best practices. In addition, the National Crime Victims Law Institute will conduct a legal review of the laws and rules on crime victim restitution to develop a 50 state guide. This will then be used to help improve the process nationwide.

If you have been a victim of crime, you may be entitled to restitution as part of the process. An Irvine crime victim rights’ attorney can work with you to prove your right to compensation and ensure that you get the money that you need to help you move forward.

At Justice 4 Crime Victims, we are dedicated to helping victims of crime in California. We are fierce advocates for our clients, standing by their side throughout the process. Contact us today at 949-585-9055 or mfell@fellesq.com to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our team.