Q: What should a victim expect with regards to restitution?
A: If a victim suffered a financial loss as a result of a crime, it is mandatory that the defendant be ordered to pay restitution for crimes occurring after April 24, 1996. While there is no guarantee that payment will be made, it is important that victims keep detailed records of all crime-related losses and expenses. For most crimes committed prior to April 24, 1996, the sentencing judge has discretion to decide whether to order restitution depending on the defendant’s ability to pay. As a practical matter, however, a defendant who does not have assets or has little potential to make money may be unlikely to make meaningful restitution to crime victims. Restitution is paid exclusively by the defendant.
Q: When will I get my money?
A: Perhaps not for a very long time. Restitution is paid exclusively by the defendant and payment may depend on how many financial resources the defendant has at the time of sentencing and whether the defendant has any children or family members who depend on him/her for income. If the defendant is sentenced to prison, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons strongly encourages defendants to participate in the Financial Responsibility Program wherein half of what the defendant earns in prison is used to satisfy restitution obligations. Wages in prison can be as low as 11 cents per hour.
Q: What happened to all the money the defendant took from me?
A: The United States Attorney’s Office attempts to seize any assets the defendant has, though often the defendant has spent much or all of the victim’s money before an investigation begins or charges are brought.
Q: How is restitution collected and disbursed?
A: You will not receive any money directly from the defendant. The Clerk of the Court receives payments from the defendant. The Clerk will mail the restitution payments directly to you. You will not know in advance when a payment will be coming and payments may not be on a particular schedule. You should keep the Clerk of the Court advised of any name and/or address changes so that payments can be mailed to the correct address.
Q: How long will the defendant have to make payments?
A: Restitution judgments are in effect and can be enforced for up to 20 years.
Q: How will I be notified?
A: After the defendant is charged with a federal crime, victims are entitled to be notified of public court proceedings. In most instances victims will receive an initial letter from the United States Attorney’s Office and subsequent letters as case events warrant. Occasionally, in cases involving a large number of victims, alternative notification procedures may be used.
Q: How can I keep up to date on a case?
A: With the first written notification from the United States Attorney’s Office, victims will be provided with a Victim Identification Number (VIN) and a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to contact the automated Victim Notification System (VNS) Center for recorded information about the status of the case. Additionally, using the VIN and PIN, victims will be able to access the VNS Website to check the status of a case.
Q: What can I do if I haven’t been notified?
A: If you allege failure on the part of a Department of Justice employee to provide you your rights, you may file a written complaint. The complaint form should be mailed to:
Q: Where can I get more information about the courts in the Eastern District of Virginia?
A: These links may be helpful:
United States District Court, Eastern District of Virginia
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
United States Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Virginia