Friday, August 12, 2016

How to Collect a Restitution Award in California

If you've been the victim of a crime in California and the defendant has been convicted in criminal court, the judge may have ordered the defendant to pay restitution to compensate you for your economic losses arising from the crime.

The amount of restitution is determined at the time of sentencing or shortly thereafter.  A restitution award may cover your medical expenses resulting from a crime, mental health counseling, the value of stolen or damaged property and lost wages, plus interest. A restitution award may also include expenses incurred by the victim to relocate away from the defendant, to install or improve residential security and to retrofit a home or vehicle if the victim was disabled by the crime.

Restitution awards are criminal in nature, so they're treated a little differently than civil lawsuits. On one hand, they are cheaper and easier for victims to obtain because the District Attorney will handle most of the legwork in criminal court and they will not charge you any fee to do so. Unlike a civil lawsuit, however, restitution only covers economic losses, not "pain and suffering" or punitive damages. Obtaining a restitution award will not preclude the victim from additionally seeking compensation for non-economic losses in civil court.

Once you have a restitution order in hand, the hard part is often trying to collect your money. The order itself is only a piece of paper. Courts and prosecutors are not collections agents and they will not actively work to enforce an existing restitution order. To make matters worse, defendants often attempt to hide their assets to avoid paying you.

An aggressive attorney can help collect your money and put your back onto your feet.  Our firm can:

  • Order the defendant to personally appear and to answer questions about his assets under penalty of perjury. If the defendant fails to appear or lies about his assets, he can be arrested.  
  • Work with the courts and the sheriff to seize the defendant's assets and deliver them to you, or to liquidate them and to deliver the proceeds to you.  
  • Garnish a defendant's wages, intercept tax refunds and seize any cash bail that the defendant posted in his criminal case.  We can even seize money that a defendant earns while incarcerated. 
  • File a judgement lien against a defendant's assets which will give you priority over other unsecured creditors and will prevent the defendant from selling or disposing of those assets.
And here's the best part: often, our services cost you NOTHING. California law allows victims to recover compensation from defendants for the costs that they incur in trying to collect their restitution awards.  This includes reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses paid to private investigators.  

If you're having trouble collecting an existing restitution award, call us for a free attorney consultation.  (714) 449-3335.  Ask for John.  Thanks for reading.

Orange County Restitution Lawyer