What Are Fines and Restitution in a Criminal Case?

In a criminal case, a judge can impose fines and restitution in addition to incarceration when a person is convicted. These financial penalties compensate the victim and the government for damages caused by the offense. The amount of the fine or restitution ordered can vary, depending on the facts of the case, but the costs are generally high. A criminal defense lawyer can help fight the defendant’s charges and pursue a favorable outcome, which could allow the defendant to avoid these severe penalties.

Schedule a consultation with Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP by calling us at (800) 462-7160 or contacting us online. We serve the people of Los Angeles.

An Overview of Fines and Restitution

Many people are aware that a criminal conviction can lead to incarceration. For instance, a misdemeanor can result in jail for up to 1 year. A felony can be punished by a prison sentence ranging from more than 1 year to life imprisonment.

In addition to incarceration, the court can impose financial penalties in the form of fines and restitution. Fines are associated with the crime itself and the resulting costs the government incurred.

On the other hand, restitution is money that goes to the victim of a crime. The funds are to compensate them for the losses they suffered. For example, the defendant might be ordered to pay restitution to replace stolen property or pay medical bills.

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the offense, the judge may impose both fines and restitution.

The Types of Fines and Restitution

Different types of fines and restitution may be ordered if someone is found guilty of a crime.

These financial penalties include the following:

  • Fines: These are meant to cover the debt the defendant owes to society because of the costs of the offense.
  • Parole revocation: This must be paid if the defendant violates the conditions of their parole.
  • Direct orders: These are funds that go directly to the alleged victim to cover losses or damages they suffered because of the defendant’s actions.

Understanding the Fines Imposed in Criminal Cases

The court may impose a fine on the defendant when a conviction occurs. Depending on the level of charge, the amount can be substantial.

For misdemeanors, the fine amount is generally up to $1,000. The financial penalty for felony crimes can be as much as $10,000.

The figures above represent the maximums a judge can order. In some cases, the statute for the alleged offense might also state mandatory minimums that must be imposed. The judge has flexibility in determining the exact amount they render.

How Restitution Works in a Criminal Case

Restitution may also be ordered as a penalty upon a conviction. This payment is for damages the defendant caused to the victim.

When ordering restitution, judges typically do not consider the defendant’s ability to pay. The amount and manner in which the penalty must be paid is determined at sentencing and announced at the same time as the term of incarceration and the fine.

The Process of Collecting Restitution

The Victim’s Compensation and Government Claims Board is primarily responsible for collecting restitution payments that will go to the victim and the organizations that help them.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will collect 50% of a person’s wages or trust deposits if the defendant is incarcerated. Additionally, the defendant can choose to make restitution payments voluntarily.

The Consequences of Not Paying Restitution

Payment of restitution is mandatory. There are no ways out of paying, and applying for bankruptcy or other forms of financial relief will not absolve a person of their restitution obligations.

If restitution isn’t paid, the defendant may face more severe penalties. In this situation, the case will go to the Franchise Tax Board, which will start collections procedures.

How a Lawyer Can Help

When facing criminal charges and serious penalties like steep fines and restitution, a criminal defense attorney can be an invaluable asset. They can help fight charges and seek a favorable outcome that may allow the defendant to avoid or minimize financial penalties. A lawyer may also assess whether a plea bargain may be beneficial, which could result in lesser charges and more lenient fines.

To discuss your case with one of our Los Angeles lawyers, please contact Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP at (800) 462-7160.