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What is Restitution?

Criminal law is a complex field that is often difficult to navigate because of its intricacies. One aspect of the law that many have heard of but don’t know the meaning of is restitution. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what restitution is, first steps for victims, and what to do if you wish to pursue collection alone.

So, What is Restitution?

To clarify, restitution doesn’t involve the pain and suffering that often accompanies a criminal act. It’s intended to address out of pocket costs that were created by the criminal conduct. To get a better idea of this, we can look at the example of a car accident: if there’s a crash and everyone’s insured, the driver of the victim car could seek restitution for their deductible. The insurance company of the victim car could seek restitution also. However, what often happens is the victim’s insurance company will contact the defendant’s insurance company, and they’ll sort out the loss between insurance companies.

It’s worth noting that restitution can be involved in both criminal and civil cases. In civil law, it’s designed to help the plaintiff recover damages that are “…based on the defendant’s gain rather than the plaintiff’s loss.” In criminal law, the amount paid by a criminal is either full or partial and is ordered as part of a sentence or probation.

What Should I Do If I’m the Victim?

If you are the victim in a case and are seeking restitution, there are some things that are crucial to collecting damages. The first thing to do is keep a record of all the expenses that are directly the result of the crime. By doing this, a judge can have a better understanding of the financial impact the crime has had and use this information to better quantify the cost of restitution.

You should also fill out a Victim Impact Statement, which the Colorado Judicial Branch defines as:

“A written statement from the victim detailing how the crime has impacted them. This statement will include a section showing the financial losses of the victim due to the crime, which could ultimately be ordered by the court and recovered as restitution.”

It’s also important to know that asking to increase the amount of restitution after the original decision is very difficult to do because the court has limited power when it comes to implementing restitution. The only time a court can order to have restitution increased is when the court has not yet set the final amount. If you wish to have the amount of restitution increased, it’s advised that you contact your District Attorney’s office immediately and seek help.

In addition, when pleading a case, it’s preferable to have the restitution figured out so its included in the plea agreement. The hearing on the restitution can be burdensome because you have to prove causation and the restitution amount, which is very similar to going to trial. In general, it’s better to have the plea agreement and restitution figured out together.

What if I Want to Collect Restitution on My Own?

As previously mentioned, you can collect restitution in both a criminal and civil context. It’s perfectly fine to purse restitution collection in civil court. To do so, you must let the court know of your intent by submitting a written document stating that you wish to pursue restitution on your own. This document is called a “Notice of Intent to Pursue Collections by Victim” form, which must be filed with the court after filling it out. Once submitted and approved, the court will no longer try to pursue restitution from the other party. However, the Collection’s Investigator may still help victims in attempt to collect restitution.

After this, the victim can apply for these documents without any charge from the court:

  • “Certified copies of the Transcript of Judgment
  • Attachment of Earnings
  • Writs of execution, attachment or other civil process to collect upon a judgment”

To learn more about collecting restitution on your own in civil court, check out the Colorado Judicial Branch’s webpage about it here.

Need Legal Help?

Looking for legal representation? Not sure if hiring an attorney is the right thing for you? Consider reaching out to our attorneys here at the Colorado Lawyer Team for a free 30-minute consultation. With specialties in family law and criminal law, our experienced, dedicated, and hard-working attorneys may just be the representation you need! Find more information at https://CoLawTeam.com or call 970.670.0378.

Interested in learning more about the law? Check out some of our previous blog posts like Economic Stressors and Divorce and Domestic Violence Cases and Child Custody.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship. It’s a blog post and not legal advice. Each case is different, and this post is meant for generalized knowledge, only. If you haven’t signed an engagement letter (or even received an engagement letter) AND issued some form of payment (peanuts do not count), then no attorney-client relationship exists. Nevertheless, we will do our best to ensure your confidentiality should you choose to contact us privately, but do not post about your case in the comments here (because reaching out for help with your case should be confidential, damn it).

If you have done both of the things mentioned earlier–signed a letter and paid us–then, and only then, you might be a client. But merely chatting with us online does not a client make. Suffice it to say, if you aren’t absolutely certain about whether or not an attorney-client relationship exists between yourself and the Colorado Lawyer Team, you should probably ask for some clarity. Until then, we’ll keep your secrets but we don’t formally represent you… YET.

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