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What happens if I complete my probation but still owe restitution?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jun 26, 2019 | 0 Comments

victim restitution money on gavel


If your probation ends and you still owe restitution the debt does not go away. Under California Penal Code 1214, any victim restitution that remains unpaid when probation ends, is enforceable against the defendant as if it were a civil money judgment.

Restitution still owing when probation ends is enforceable as a civil money judgment and the person you owe it to could begin collection proceedings

In addition, in civil judgment collection proceedings:

  • you could be liable for the costs of collection,
  • the amount you owe accrues interest at 10% per year,
  • your credit may be damaged.

There are two types of restitution that every person convicted of a crime in California must be ordered to pay:

  • restitution fines, payable to the State of California, and
  • direct restitution to any victims.

Restitution fines are punishment and based upon the seriousness of the crime:

  • in felony cases the restitution fine can be between $300 and $10,000,
  • in misdemeanor cases the restitution fine can be between $150 and $1,000.

Victim restitution is ordered to reimburse crime victims for any economic losses suffered resulting from the defendant's criminal conduct.

The defendant has the right to a restitution hearing if he or she disputes the victim's losses.

In every case in which the defendant is granted probation, the court must make the payment of restitution fines and victim restitution orders a condition of probation.

How does the judge determine the amount of restitution in the first place?

The two types of restitution in California criminal cases are:

  • direct restitution to any victims based on actual losses,
  • restitution fines, payable to the state.

Victim restitution is ordered whenever any victim has suffered economic losses as a result of the defendant's conduct.

Examples of the types of losses for which victim restitution can be ordered include:

  • payment for stolen or damaged property,
  • medical expenses for the victim or family of the victim,
  • mental health counseling expenses,
  • lost wages due to injuries,
  • expenses to install a home security system,
  • expenses for the costs to repair the credit of a victim of identity theft.

Restitution fines are considered a punishment and are payable to the state Restitution Fund. They are set by the judge based upon the facts of the case and the seriousness of the crime.

  • The restitution fine for felonies is $300 to $10,000,
    • Note: the fine can be increased based upon the number of charges and length of imprisonment.
  • The restitution fine for misdemeanors is $150 to $1,000.

A judge can waive a restitution fine if there are compelling and extraordinary reasons to do so. Inability to pay is not considered a compelling or extraordinary reason.

Please note, in addition to restitution fines the judge may be allowed to order certain court fees, penalties, and other assessments depending on the type of charges.

I don't agree with the amount of restitution a victim claims--what can I do?

At sentencing, the judge will often say, “The Court orders victim restitution in an amount to be determined.” The defendant must file with the court an asset disclosure form identifying all of their:

  • income
  • assets,
  • liabilities.

A copy of the form is made available to any victims and the Restitution Fund board.

If victims make a claim for losses, the defendant can

  • agree to the amount of restitution and pay it,
  • request a payment plan,
  • disagree with the amount and request a restitution hearing to dispute the determination of the amount of victim restitution.

At the restitution hearing the judge will:

  • consider evidence like bills and receipts,
  • listen to testimony, and
  • hear argument from the district attorney and the defendant.

Afterwards, the judge will issue a written order for victim restitution which must:

  • identify each victim,
  • identify each loss, and
  • reimburse the victim for every economic loss incurred as the result of the defendant's criminal conduct.

If the defendant does not pay the restitution they could be found in violation of probation (during the probation period).

After probation ends any unpaid victim restitution is only enforceable as a civil money judgment.

What happens if I don't pay a civil money judgment?

If you do NOT pay a civil money judgment the creditor can start collection proceedings and:

  • the judgment will accumulate interest at the rate of 10% per year,
  • the creditor can get an order for a reimbursement of any reasonable and necessary costs of collection (lawyer or collection agency fees),
  • your credit may be damaged because credit reporting agencies will know you have an unpaid judgment. This can make it more difficult to get a loan, credit cards, or even rent an apartment.

It is IMPORTANT in every criminal case to be represented by an experienced criminal attorney who can advise on how to legally limit the amount of money you will be ordered to pay in fees, fines, and restitution.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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