You May Not Have to Pay Restitution if You are Convicted of a Crime
In many cases, you will be ordered to pay restitution if you plead guilty or are convicted of a crime. However, you are entitled to a hearing before a restitution amount can be set. More importantly, the court sometimes makes a mistake and orders someone to pay restitution when they should not be ordered to do so.
The case of People vs. Martinez, Superior Court No. FMB1200197 is one such example.
People v. Dennis Terry Martinez Super.Ct.No. FMB1200197
Dennis Martinez, who was on probation for driving without a license, was driving his vehicle at night when he accidentally collided with a 12-year-old victim riding a scooter. He quickly got out of his car to check on the victim before hearing his screaming mother come over to her son. Martinez fled the scene at that moment and the 12-year-old was taken to the Intensive Care Unit of Loma Linda University Medical Center.1
Martinez came forward within 24 hours and admitted to fleeing the scene of the accident. He also admitted to ingesting marijuana on the day of the accident. He did not have insurance at the time of the collision. The child suffered sever injuries and the bill for the child’s stay at the hospital totaled more than $400,000. Because Martinez was at fault and the victim incurred major injuries, he was ordered by the court to pay restitution.2
Martinez appealed the court’s decision, arguing that he was convicted of fleeing the scene of the accident, but not for hitting the child. Defendants typically are ordered to pay restitution for a victim’s injuries because the economic loss resulted directly from their crime.
Martinez argued that, even though he fled the scene, this did not cause or increase the child’s injuries. Admitting guilt to fleeing the scene of an accident does not necessarily mean he was admitting to causing the accident.
The Fourth Appellate District for the California Court of Appeal agreed with Martinez, ruling that he could not be ordered to pay the victim’s restitution because him fleeing the scene did not cause the injuries.3
When is the Victim of a Crime Entitled to Restitution?
A victim has the right to recover any economic losses that resulted from criminal actions. A victim is generally considered:
- Someone who suffered a direct or threatened physical or financial harm;
- The family of someone who suffered the loss (as in the case of the 12-year-old boy); and
- A business that has suffered a loss due to criminal acts.4
“Losses” are the damaged property, medical bills, or lost wages that resulted from the crime. When you are convicted of a crime that directly resulted in a victim’s losses, you could be ordered to compensate the victim for these losses.
According to California law, victims are entitled to recover the entire amount of any losses or expenses that resulted from a criminal act. As the Martinez case showed, these costs can be substantial. The victim will need to provide proof of the losses, through evidence such as:
- Medical bills and expenses;
- Business records;
- Physical therapy costs; and/or
- Loss of income.5
As the Martinez case shows, just because you plead guilty or are convicted of a crime, you are not necessarily required to pay restitution. The crime you are convicted of must have directly resulted in the victim’s injuries or losses.
Call the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you are facing allegations of a crime and have been ordered to pay restitution, it can affect your life dramatically. Not only are you facing severe criminal charges, you could be ordered to dive deep into your finances to compensate the victim. A skilled attorney can help you fight these charges aggressively. With over 40 years of experience successfully defending our clients, the attorneys at Wallin & Klarich can help you obtain the best possible legal outcome in your case.
With offices located in Orange County, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Torrance, Riverside, West Covina, Victorville, Ventura, San Diego and Sherman Oaks, Wallin & Klarich is available to provide round-the-clock support no matter where you work or live.
Call us at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 to discuss your case. We will be there when you call.