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When is restitution owed following a criminal conviction?

Any Louisianan facing federal criminal charges of course wants to avoid a conviction. Sometimes, however, a defendant may take a plea deal and plead guilty to a charge if he or she believes it may offer advantages over continuing to contest pending criminal charges. In accepting a plea deal, the parties may discuss potential penalties for the crime at issue, including payment of restitution.

Under the Mandatory Restitution Act of 1996, some individuals convicted of crimes may have to pay the person affected by a crime restitution. For example, a court may require that a defendant pay back a sum equal to the amount taken for a white collar crime such as embezzlement or fraud. Before making a determination regarding restitution payments, however, a court will consider a defendant's financial resources, as well as his or her earning ability and other appropriate factors that may be relevant.

A person purportedly affected by a crime will have to explain their alleged losses and request restitution through a formal process. Significantly, if a court decides that the determination of restitution payments would simply be too complex, the court may decline to require restitution payments from a defendant. Alternatively, a court may also require a defendant to perform a service as his or her form of restitution, rather than pay money back. This alternative may be appealing to some defendants.

Though restitution may be required following some convictions, the amount and form of restitution is not set in stone. A defendant who is facing white collar crime charges can benefit tremendously from legal counsel who can negotiate on his or her behalf and provide advice regarding potential options.

Source: justice.gov, "The Restitution Process for Victims of Federal Crimes," accessed Aug. 19, 2016

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