What is Restitution?
California’s State Constitution provides: “All persons who suffer losses as a result of criminal activity shall have the right to restitution …” California Constitution, Article I, Section 28. But, what is restitution?
Restitution is an order made by the Judge as part of the defendant’s sentence that requires the defendant to repay the crime victim for losses suffered as a result of the defendant’s criminal conduct. Restitution may include, but is not limited to: the replacement or repair cost of stolen or damaged property; funeral expenses; ambulance or hospital bills, counseling and therapy expenses; relocation expenses; and lost wages for time spent assisting the police or prosecution.
How can I claim restitution?
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has a dedicated Restitution Unit to assist victims with their restitution claims. Within 48 hours of the filing of each new criminal case, the D.A.’s office mails to every identified crime victim a restitution claim form. The form may be returned to the District Attorney, along with any bills or receipts, to initiate a restitution claim. Once the claim is received, it is entered into our database and placed in the D.A. case file. The claim form and all victim information are entirely confidential. If the case results in a criminal conviction, the District Attorney will present the victim’s restitution claim to the sentencing judge and request that the defendant’s sentence include an order of repayment to the victim.
How does restitution get paid?
Once the judge orders restitution, the order is sent to one of our collection partners – either Alameda County Central Collections, if the defendant is granted probation, or the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, if the defendant is sentenced to prison. These two entities will then collect money from the defendant, based on their ability to pay, and send the money to the victim until the restitution is paid in full. There is no need for the victim to have any contact with the defendant in order to receive these funds.
What if the defendant refuses to pay restitution?
Refusal to pay restitution, if the defendant has the ability to pay, can form the basis for revocation of the defendant’s probation and imposition of additional jail or prison time. The District Attorney actively monitors probation cases where restitution of more than $1,000 is ordered. It is not uncommon for the District Attorney to recommend revocation and imposition of additional jail or prison time for defendants who are not complying with a court’s restitution order. In 2009, the District Attorney’s office made well over 2,500 court appearances for restitution progress reports alone.
So, does anyone ever get paid?
Yes, they do. Of course, the District Attorney cannot guarantee full repayment of each and every criminal restitution order. But, in the five-year period from June 2001 to June 2006, the Alameda County District Attorney obtained 5133 restitution orders on behalf of crime victims in Alameda County totaling slightly over $34 million dollars. That averages to 1,000 new restitution orders each year or five orders per day. Our collection partners inform us that they have received and forwarded payments to the victims on these orders totaling just over $19 million – a 55% recovery rate. In recognition of these efforts, Alameda County District Attorney Restitution Unit was honored in 2007 by the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) with an Award of Merit for innovation and leadership in the area of victim restitution – one of only 11 Awards of Merit made that entire year to California counties with population of 750,000 or more.
Getting better all the time.
We are not resting on our past achievements. In the fiscal year 2009-2010, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office obtained 1,083 restitution orders on behalf of crime victims in Alameda County totaling $10,748,175.55, plus $421,109.00 in court fines payable to the State Victim Restitution Fund. The total restitution orders, bad check recovery and restitution fines obtained for the fiscal year 2009-2010 is $11,357,162.82. Our Restitution Unit remains a model for the rest of the State and regularly conducts training for other D.A.’s offices throughout California.
If you have a question regarding criminal restitution, please contact the District Attorney’s Restitution Hotline at (510) 272-6299.