In Nevada criminal cases, victim restitution is financial compensation that defendants must pay their victims to fulfill their sentence. Restitution is a common punishment in cases involving theft, property damage, or violence.
Under Nevada’s Victims’ Bill of Rights, crime victims have a state constitutional right to a “full and timely” restitution. Keep reading to learn about victim restitution law in Las Vegas.
1. What is victim restitution in Nevada?
Restitution is money that a person who gets convicted of a crime is ordered to pay to the victim of that crime in order to make the victim “whole.” For example, if John is convicted of stealing Betty’s $5,000 TV, the judge may then order John to pay Betty $5,000 as restitution.
2. Does every crime have restitution as a penalty?
No. Many Nevada crimes are “victimless” such as soliciting prostitution or possession of drugs. So in those cases the judge may impose fines to be paid to the government but no restitution since there was no victim.
3. Which Nevada crimes carry restitution as a punishment?
It depends, but restitution is a standard penalty for violent crimes where the victim gets hurt and for property crimes where the victim loses money.1
Restitution is also a required penalty for certain crimes against the elderly; the judge might not agree to grant probation or a suspended sentence unless restitution gets paid.2
Note that judges may not order restitution in criminal cases where there is no conviction.3 However, victims may still be able to pursue restitution through a civil lawsuit.
4. What expenses does victim restitution cover?
Restitution is typically meant to reimburse the victim for
- doctor’s bills,
- property damage, and
- the value of stolen property.
5. How do Nevada judges determine victim restitution?
The victims give copies of their
- receipts and
- estimates for repairs
to the prosecutor in the case to inform the judge about it. The victims (or victims’ lawyers) may also speak to the judge about their losses in court during the defendant’s sentencing hearing or a restitution hearing.
Victims sometimes fabricate or exaggerate claims to try to get more money through restitution. Defendants’ attorneys should investigate the victim’s claims and tell the judge if they do not seem legitimate. Even if the victim’s claims are legitimate, the defendant’s attorney can often negotiate down the restitution costs.
Under Nevada’s new Victims’ Bill of Rights, victims are supposed to get paid restitution before the state receives any of its fees, fines, etc. In short, victims get paid before the state does. (The Nevada Victims’ Bill of Rights was passed by voters in the 2018 midterm elections as Question 1.)
6. Can victims receive additional compensation in Nevada?
In some cases. The Nevada Victims of Crime Program (VOCP) specifically helps victims and families of deceased victims of violent crimes including:
- Battery (NRS 200.481)
- Sexual assault (NRS 200.366)
- Battery domestic violence (NRS 200.485)
- Child abuse (NRS 200.508)
- Elder abuse (NRS 200.5099)
- Murder (NRS 200.030)
- Drunk driving / DUI
VOCP awards money only for
- medical bills,
- lost earnings,
- psychological counseling, and
- funeral/burial bills.
It does not cover
- legal fees,
- property losses,
- pain & suffering, or
- other living expenses.4
For more information about eligibility and applications, go to the VOCP website.
Counties also offer assistance with medical bills for victims of sexual offenses. For more information, call the Las Vegas Metro Police Department’s Sexual Assault unit at 229-3421 or the Rape Crisis Center Hotline at 1-800-553-7273
7. What happens if defendants do not pay restitution?
Defying a court order to pay victim restitution can have dire consequences:
- The defendant’s probation may be revoked,
- they may be dishonorably discharged from probation,
- a suspended jail sentence may be imposed, and/or
- the defendant may go to prison.
If a defendant cannot pay restitution, it is important they tell their attorney as soon as possible. They may be able to make alternative arrangements with the prosecutor.
Victims who are not receiving promised restitution should contact the prosecutor in their case or the Probation and Parole Board at 775-684-2600.
For more information on restitution and how it works, refer to the following:
- Request for Restitution in Clark County – Form that crime victims must fill out to request restitution in cases under the jurisdiction of Clark County.
- Victim Restitution – Information page by the Nevada State Police Parole and Probation.
- Victim Restitution Payment Changes – Notice on how the Clark County District Attorney’s Bad Check Diversion Unit will no longer be accepting restitution payments.
- Restitution Resource Center – This organization assists state and local jurisdictions to enforce victim restitution laws.
- Restitution Process – Frequently-asked-questions answered by the Department of Justice.
- NRS 176A.120; Nevada State Constitution (Art. 1, sect. 23); Nevada’s Victims’ Bill of Rights. Nied v. State (2022) 138 Nev. Advance Opinion 30 (“we stress that restitution is intended to compensate the victim for costs and losses caused by the defendant. Thus, restitution for a victim’s medical costs is limited to the amount that the medical provider accepts as payment in full rather than the amount initially billed by the medical provider. And a defendant’s restitution obligation must be offset by any amount the defendant’s insurer paid to the victim.“)
- NRS 176A.430.
- Korby v. State, (1977) 93 Nev. 326, 565 P.2d 1006; see also Buffington v. State, (1994) 110 Nev. 124, 868 P.2d 643.
- See also NRS 217; see, for example, Martinez v. State, (1999) 115 Nev. 9, 974 P.2d 133. See also Nied (2022) 138 Nev. Adv. Op. 30 (“[R]estitution for a victim’s medical costs is limited to the amount that the medical provider accepts as payment in full rather than the amount initially billed by the medical provider. And a defendant’s restitution obligation must be offset by any amount the defendant’s insurer paid to the victim.”)