Restitution is a payment made by the perpetrator of a crime to the victims of that crime. Judges often order restitution be paid in cases where victims suffered some kind of financial setback as the result of a crime. The payment is meant to make the victims whole and restore them financially to the point they were at prior to the commission of the crime.
For example, a graffiti artist who spray paints the side of a residential home may be ordered to pay restitution to the homeowners. The money could then be used to repaint the home. In another example, a defendant who broke his victim’s arm in a robbery may be ordered to compensate the victim for his medical expenses.
When It Applies
Judges typically order restitution as a condition of another sentence such as incarceration or probation, although it is possible to receive a sentence of restitution on its own. States and the federal government have statutes that determine who can receive restitution and how judges can determine the amount that defendants will have to pay. For more information on how restitution works where you live, contact an attorney in your local jurisdiction.
Restitution vs. Fines
Restitution differs from a fine in that it’s paid to the victims of a crime to compensate them for the injuries they suffered as a result of the crime. A fine, on the other hand, is paid to the government strictly as a punitive measure. While a government can be a victim of a crime for restitution purposes, a fine is not intended to compensate the government for its injuries. Instead, a fine is meant only to punish an offender and deter future criminal behavior.
For example, if a jury convicts a defendant of stealing government property, a judge could order the defendant to pay the government restitution in the amount of the value of the piece of property. In addition, the judge could also fine the defendant in order to punish and deter. The two payments are separate one is to compensate the government for its loss and the other is to punish the perpetrator.