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What is a Direct Order of Restitution?

As a California resident, you’re aware that a criminal conviction will likely lead to fines and possibly incarceration, but did you know that some offenders have to pay their victims back for the damage they caused? It’s true. For example, let’s say that “Mike” ran into “Joe,” while he was on a date with his ex-girlfriend. Mike and Joe exchanged words, Mike lost his temper and ended up beating Joe up until he lost consciousness.

Joe was rushed to the hospital and after a five-day stay, he was slapped with a $20,000 hospital bill. Not only that, but Joe lost two weeks of work and he was not paid for the time he missed. Mike was ultimately convicted of battery under Section 243(d) of the California Code, but due to the extent of Joe’s losses, the court also ordered Mike to pay restitution to Joe. “Pay the victim, what? I’ve never heard of that!”

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), “The court [sentencing court] can order a defendant to pay restitution to the victim. This type of restitution is referred to as a Direct Order. Under the California Penal Code, the court “must award restitution to the victim(s) in the full amount of economic loss,” says the CDCR.

Types of economic losses an offender can be ordered to reimburse:

  • Medical expenses,
  • Mental health counseling,
  • Reasonable attorney fees incurred by the victim,
  • Full or partial reimbursement for the damaged or stolen property,
  • The victim’s lost wages incurred,
  • A minor’s parent’s lost wages incurred while they had to care for their child, who was a victim,
  • The expenses incurred from having to increase security or install a security system where the crime took place, and
  • Restitution (for economic losses) to minor victims who were molested for the psychological harm they experienced.

Offenders in California can also be required to pay what are called “restitution fines.” These are viewed as the defendant’s “debt to society,” which they owe because they engaged in criminal behavior.

In California, a defendant may be subjected to restitution fines regardless of the crime or the sentence they receive. Such fines are at the court’s discretion; however, all offenders who are sentenced to prison must pay a fine ranging between $300 and $10,000.

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