You’ve probably heard the term restitution thrown around in news stories about crimes. It is a common penalty in criminal cases, as one North Carolina man recently found out.
In October, a North Carolina man was sentenced to 84 months in prison for the role he played in conspiring to steal from Medicaid. Part of his sentence included paying restitution in the amount of $6.1 million to North Carolina Medicaid and $346,000 to the IRS for his crimes.
So, what is restitution and how does it factor into criminal cases in North Carolina? Read on to find out.
Restitution: What Is It?
Restitution is an ordered payment as a part of a criminal sentence. Its aim can be one or both of two punitive measures:
- To compensate a victim of a crime for losses they may have suffered as a result.
- To make an example of an offender, deterring others from committing the crime.
In any case, assigning restitution is intended to force the defendant to directly answer the consequences of a crime. Courts are required to consider restitution as a part of a sentence, but it is not negotiable.
If a judge does not order restitution to be paid or only orders partial restitution, they must make their justifications known on record as to the reasoning behind it.
Is Restitution the Same as a Fine?
Fines and restitution are both financial costs imposed as a part of a criminal sentence, but that’s where the similarities end. Fines are often predetermined penalties associated with a crime and are paid to the court. Restitution is meant to repay losses to victims of the crime and is not a set amount.
When Is Restitution Ordered?
When a criminal case meets certain thresholds, then restitution is included as a part of the sentence. These thresholds are:
- Restitution is considered necessary for the rehabilitation of the offender
- Restitution is needed for the victim to feel whole
- The financial losses of the victim are directly related to the crime
In most cases involving theft or fraud, restitution is a part of the sentence. The amount stolen is often required to be paid back to the victims. Some crimes have mandatory restitution too, such as drunk driving, child abuse, and identity fraud.
Who Is Entitled to Restitution?
Under the law, certain parties are eligible for restitution. They include victims, both direct and indirect, entities where costs were incurred in relation to the crime, and government agencies involved in certain cases.
Victims of a Crime
Direct victims are generally entitled to restitution. This includes those who suffer a loss or injury directly as a result of a crime. An indirect victim is someone like a family member of a murder victim. People who are indirectly impacted by the crime.
Restitution can also be paid to entities that have provided recovery for the victim. This included government entities, victim services, and victim compensation programs. If a victim is insured and has been reimbursed by insurance, then the restitution can be paid to insurance companies in some cases.
If a crime has no identifiable victim, such as the Medicaid case talked about at the start, then the government may receive the restitution.
How Restitution is Paid
In some cases, restitution is ordered whether the defendant has the ability to pay it or not. In general, though, the defendant’s ability to pay is taken into consideration in the determination of the amount of restitution as well as the schedule of payments set up by the court.
Restitution is an important part of the criminal justice system, but it’s not easy for the defendant to always pay.