If you are found guilty of a criminal act, the courts will impose penalties as prescribed by law. You might be looking at having to pay fines or courts costs, go to jail, attend special classes, lose driving privileges and more. In some cases, you may also owe restitution. Read on to learn more about this method of providing crime victims with financial remuneration.

When Restitution is Ordered

This method of holding a perpetrator responsible is nothing new but the types of crimes for which it is ordered has broadened considerably. In the past, it was not unusual for those convicted of theft to be ordered to pay back a business but now it might be ordered for crimes like child abuse, identity fraud, and drunk driving accidents. Restitution is considered another part of the criminal sentence as ordered by the judge.

Eligible Victims

There are several different categories of victims that are eligible for restitution.

1. Those directly affected by the crime: Direct victims don't necessarily have to be people. This category covers not only individuals who suffered an injury or a loss as a result of a crime, but also corporations, companies, businesses, and most any other entity.

2. Those affected indirectly by the crime: One of the most common examples in this category are the close family members of a murder victim.

3. Those who spent funds on the victim: In some cases, the victim's health insurance company is eligible to receive reimbursement for the care the victim received as a result of a crime. Other third-party victims might include victim service agencies, creditors, and government victim advocacy agencies.

4. When individual victims don't exist: There is no such thing as a victimless crime and restitution can be ordered for crimes where no one individual was harmed. Some of these crimes include things like calling in false reports of crimes, 911 system abuse, drug crimes, Social Security, Medicaid/Medicare or food stamp fraud and more. The affected government agency itself can receive restitution for crimes committed against it

The Perpetrator's Ability to Pay

While some who commit crimes are barely able to pay their fines and court costs, the stereotype of a penniless vagrant doesn't always hold. The ability of the perpetrator to pay restitution is part of both the order to pay, the amount owed and the schedule of payments. There will be a difference in the restitution requirements between someone who only makes minimum wage or is unemployed, and someone with a high-paying position.

An additional factor for the amount of restitution is the existence of any civil cases involving the same parties. For example, if the victim is suing the perpetrator or has already won a lawsuit against them, then the restitution amount might be reduced in consideration of the financial award already in store for the victim.

Speak to a criminal defense attorney to learn more about criminal restitution issues.