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The Reality Of Restitution

Neither the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Department of Justice, nor any employee thereof can act as your attorney or provide legal advice to you. We can give victims general information concerning restitution. The Mandatory Victims Restitution Act applies to offenses occurring on or after April 24, 1996, and dictates that full restitution be ordered to victims of crimes of violence, certain property offenses, and crimes related to consumer product tampering. The court has ordered restitution be paid as a part of the Judgment in a Criminal Case (JCC) to those victims who returned declaration of loss statements.

Three federal agencies are responsible for collecting restitution. The U.S. Attorney’s Financial Litigation Unit, (FLU), The Bureau of Prisons, (BOP), and the U.S. Probation Office. The U.S. District Court Clerk’s Office is the depository for all restitution paid and is responsible for disbursement to all designated victims in proportion to their losses. All these agencies will make their best effort to collect as much restitution as is possible for victims. Your consent to any action to pursue enforcement of the restitution order is not needed.

An order for restitution does not mean you will automatically receive payments nor does it mean full restitution will be collected. The ability to enforce restitution depends upon each defendant(s) economic circumstances. Below are some steps you can take to aid in recovering restitution:

  1. It is imperative that victims maintain correct contact information, including an email address in the Victim Notification System, VNS. By using their unique Victim Identification Number (VIN) and (PIN) number, victims can easily update contact information through the VNS website www.Notify.USDOJ.GOV or by calling 1-866-365-4968.

  2. Victims should share any information they may have about any assets of the offender(s) with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Financial Litigation Unit, please call (618)628-3700. The U.S. Attorney’s Financial Litigation Unit (FLU) files a civil Judgment lien based on the criminal Judgment order on behalf of the victims in any states or counties where the offender(s) may have assets or property. This establishes a legal claim to the debtor's (offenders’) current and future property, earnings or assets for security or payment of a debt (restitution). A restitution order is enforceable for a minimum of (20) years.

  3. Contact the prison where the offender is incarcerated. The prison facility, phone number, and caseworker of a convicted offender are available on VNS by clicking on the Defendant/Inmate tab in VNS. You may also access the Bureau of Prisons, (BOP) website, then click on Inmate Locator or call the BOP Victim Assistance office at 1-800-359-3267 to obtain this information.

  4. Ask to speak to the inmate’s caseworker. Find out if the inmate participates in The Inmate Financial Responsibility Program. This is a voluntary incentive program that encourages inmates to take financial responsibility by paying court related debts while incarcerated. If the inmate is not participating, ask why not.

  5. Once notified of the offender's release by the prison, contact the U.S. Probation Office responsible for supervising the offender upon release. Ask for the name and phone number of the U.S. Probation Officer (USPO) supervising the offender. Call the USPO and verify restitution payments will be made as a condition of the offender's supervised release.

  6. Finally, under Title 18 of the United States Code § 3663(h)(2), victims may pursue enforcement of a restitution order through a civil lawsuit against the offender. You may wish to consult with a private attorney to obtain information about proceeding against the defendant to recover restitution, losses or damages sustained as a result of the crime.

While restitution must be ordered in many cases, sometimes the number of identifiable victims is so large as to make restitution impracticable, which is especially true when a Defendant has insufficient assets to make restitution in any meaningful amount to victims. Other times, calculation of restitution would involve determination of complex issues of fact related to the cause or amount of the victim’s losses, such that the sentencing process would become complicated or prolonged to a degree that the need to provide restitution to any victim is outweighed by the burden on the sentencing process. Where there are numerous victims, complex issues of loss causation and calculation, or both, the Court may determine that issues of restitution will not be litigated.

Updated February 23, 2015

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