What is restitution?
Restitution means payment of crime related expenses to a victim from an offender. Restitution is mandatory in all criminal cases in which the defendant is convicted. Restitution is part of the sentencing order.
How do I ask for Restitution?
A victim of crime has the right to ask the judge to order restitution. The County Attorney is responsible for having the victim complete a “Victim Impact Statement.” Someone from the County Attorney’s office should contact you about requesting restitution. If you are not contacted, call the County Attorney’s office and tell them you want to request restitution.
If the full extent of the victim’s loss is not known at the time of sentencing, the amount of restitution may be determined at a later date.
Always keep the Clerk of Court or person supervising the offender aware of your current address so that restitution payments can be sent to you.
The offender has the right to object to restitution ordered by the court. The court may hold a hearing on the restitution at any time due to objections by the offender. The County Attorney’s office may contact you and ask you to testify at the restitution hearing. The County Attorney’s office will ask that you submit proof of your damages.
How much restitution can be requested?
Victims of crime have the right to request restitution for all crime related expenses which have not been covered by insurance, or the Crime Victim Compensation Program. This may include, but is not limited to: medical bills, counseling expenses, transportation, lost wages due to an injury, and stolen or damaged property. Keep all of your bills, receipts or other proof of your losses and attach copies to your victim impact statement. In cases of a homicide, the sentencing Judge must order $150,000 in restitution to the victim’s estate.
In some cases, sentencing orders can be amended to include restitution at a later date. For example, if additional expenses are incurred, the County Attorney’s office may have the ability to add these expenses onto the offender’s restitution order.
What if the Offender has not paid the Restitution?
A court order does not guarantee payment by the offender. The probation officer is responsible for monitoring the offender’s restitution payments. If restitution was ordered and you have not received a payment, call the offender’s probation officer. If a probation officer has not been assigned to the offender, you may call the Clerk of Court or the County Attorney’s office.
If payment is still not made victims may ask the County Attorney or probation officer to schedule a contempt of court hearing. A hearing can be requested at any time. At the review hearing, the judge has the following options:
- Hold the offender in contempt of court;
- Extend the offender’s probation period to allow more time for payment; or
- Revoke the offender’s probation and have the offender serve the remainder of his/her time in jail or prison.
If the offender was sent to prison, a portion of his/her wages and income can be used to pay restitution. If the offender has been released from prison, he/she will be held responsible for paying the rest of the restitution during the supervised parole period. If the offender fails to make payments, the parole can be revoked, causing the offender to return to prison for the remainder of his/her sentence.
How can I collect Restitution if the Offender is no longer under the Court’s Supervision?
If the sentencing order was issued after July 1, 1992 the order is automatically considered a “Confession of Judgment.” A confession of judgment is a civil order that is considered a judgment or lien against the offender.
A restitution order recorded as a civil judgment will show up if a credit check is done on the offender. It will prevent the offender from being able to finance a car, for example, until he or she pays the restitution.
A civil judgment does not automatically result in collection of the money from the offender. Some options for collection are seizing wages, property, bank accounts and other assets. Collecting the restitution can cost $50 in court fees or more, so you should consider the amount of the unpaid restitution and whether the offender has the ability to pay.
Although it is not required, you may want to hire a private attorney to attempt to collect the money. For a fee, an attorney can help you locate the offender’s money or property and collect the restitution from the offender’s bank accounts or wages. If you want to collect the money yourself without an attorney, the Clerk of Court can provide more information on the forms which need to be filed and the fees charged.
What if the Offender is a Juvenile?
In some juvenile cases, a juvenile offender’s parents can be held responsible for their child’s debt up to $2000. A separate civil action would need to be brought against the parents, which can usually be handled in Small Claims Court. Again, the Clerk of Court’s office can provide the forms. There will be a filing fee.
What is the Difference between Restitution and Compensation?
Restitution is only available if the offender is convicted of a crime or pleads guilty and is ordered by the court to pay restitution. Restitution can be ordered for all expenses related to the crime, including property losses.
“Compensation” refers to financial assistance provided by the Attorney General’s office for victims of violent crimes. You need to get an application from the Iowa Crime Victim Compensation Program. In all cases, you must file a compensation claim within two years of the injury or within two years of discovery in cases of child sexual abuse. The Crime Victim Compensation Program does not pay for property losses.
If you are a victim of a violent crime, you should file a claim with the Crime Victim Compensation Program even though you are also requesting restitution. Secondary victims, such as family members, may also be eligible for some crime-related expenses. If the program pays your expenses and the offender also pays you restitution for the same expenses, you must reimburse the Crime Victim Compensation Program for the amount the program paid.
You should always seek restitution and file a claim for compensation. You may have trouble collecting restitution from the offender, or you may not be eligible for compensation, so it is a good idea to pursue both at the same time.
Victims of crime may want to consider civil litigation in addition to seeking restitution and victim compensation for crime related damages, as well as psychological trauma, pain and suffering or loss of consortium. Several types of civil suits may be possible, including premise liability, uninsured/underinsured automobile coverage, and dram shop liability.
To determine if civil litigation is possible in your case you must contact a private attorney who will review the case. Most private attorneys work on a contingent fee basis. If the attorney accepts the case on a contingent fee basis, and you are not successful in recovering civil damages, you are not required to pay attorney fees. If you are successful you will pay the attorney 25%-40% of the settlement for their fees.