Crime Victim Restitution
In some Federal cases, if the defendant is found guilty, a Judge will order that he/she must pay back restitution to cover any financial loss that the victim suffered as a result of the crime of which the defendant was convicted. In some circumstances, the defendant will be ordered to return any property that the defendant took during the commission of the crime.
In 1996, Congress passed the Mandatory Victims’ Restitution Act to establish procedures for determining the amount of restitution to which a victim may be entitled. Under Federal law, it is mandatory for a defendant to pay restitution for a case which occurred after April 24, 1996. For most crimes committed prior to this date, Judges have discretion on whether to order restitution.
Unfortunately, a defendant who has no money or earning potential may be unlikely to ever make meaningful restitution to the victims. Nevertheless, it is important to begin keeping record of all expenses incurred as a result of a crime, so that this information can be used by the Judge in determining what may be ordered.
1. How Do Victims Make Claims for Losses?
During the investigation of the suspected crime, the investigative agency gathers necessary information from those who are possible crime victims. If the suspected offender is charged with a crime, the investigative agency will then send the victims’ loss information to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Following the arraignment of the suspected offender, the U.S. Attorney's Office sends victims a letter informing them of the status of the case. Accompanying the initial letter will be a "Victim Questionnaire." On the questionnaire Victims can itemize monetary losses they incurred, received in addition to any physical or emotional damage they may have suffered.
2. How Do Victims Receive Their Restitution Payments?
The U.S. Attorney's Office Financial Litigation Unit (FLU) is charged with enforcing orders of restitution, and monitors efforts in enforcing the criminal judgments if defendants have assets or income. In addition, the probation officer in charge of the defendant will monitor and ensure that the appropriate restitution is paid, where possible.
The U.S. District Court Clerk's Office is responsible for disbursing restitution payments to victims. The defendant does not make payments directly to the victim. The U.S. District Court Clerk's Office maintains a record of payments and disbursements on all court-ordered restitution for accountability purposes. Victims may receive one large lump-sum payment, but in most cases, victims receive smaller partial payments from time to time. REMEMBER, this will depend on the defendant's ability to repay the restitution and on the number of other victims involved.
The District Court Clerk cannot send restitution payments to victims who do not keep the court informed of their current address. Crime victims who move or whose mailing address changes are responsible for notifying the court of the change. A form has been provided here for you to use. Print the form and mail it to the address shown on the form. If a victim has not provided a current address, any restitution payments from the defendant may never be paid over to the victim.
3. What Losses are Covered by Restitution?
- Wages lost as a result of the crime
- Medical expenses for injuries and/or counseling related to the crime
- Rehabilitation costs for injuries, physical therapy, and psychological care
- Lost or damaged property
- Funeral expenses and burial costs
- Wages lost by victims' family members if losses are related to taking care of victims
- Cash or property lost due to telemarketing fraud or other fraudulent crimes
- Attorney fees
- Tax penalties
- Emotional pain and suffering
Crime Victims’ Compensation Programs
Crime victims' compensation programs are administered by each state, territory, and the District of Columbia. These compensation programs provide financial assistance to victims and survivors of victims of criminal violence who are not otherwise covered by insurance. Those funds are intended to cover:
- Medical expenses, including expenses for mental health counseling and care
- Loss of wages resulting from a physical injury
- Funeral expenses for a death resulting from a compensable crime
- Eyeglasses or other corrective lenses
- Dental services
- Prosthetic devices
Each compensation program has its own rules regarding the types of losses for which victims may recover and the amount of money victims may recover. Also, each compensation program has its own instructions for applying for crime victims' compensation. The Victim Witness staff in the United States Attorneys Office can provide information about victim compensation programs in Kentucky.