Did you know that Michigan law requires persons convicted of crimes to reimburse the victims of those crimes?
- Did you know that the amount of restitution is often wrong?
- Did you know that you can challenge the amount of restitution before it is ordered?
Before I began representing them, my clients didn’t…. One of them told me, “I never had anyone fight for me before; I was just told I had to pay it (meaning restitution).
The authority for restitution comes from the Michigan Constitution 1963, Art. 1, §24, the Restitution Act, and the Crime Victim’s Rights Act. All of the above provide that victims of crimes have the right to restitution. The right to restitution has been construed to mean that a court must order a criminal defendant to pay restitution at the time of sentencing, if:
- victim of a crime has suffered a loss; and
- that loss is the direct/proximate result of the criminal defendant’s actions or his/her course of conduct.
However, restitution is not a foregone conclusion; it may be challenged. The law states that criminal defendant’s may dispute restitution at sentencing. This is critical, because sometimes the amount of restitution is wrong, or it shouldn’t be ordered at all; because, the victim has already been reimbursed or the property was returned or never actually taken, destroyed, or damaged.
When the amount of restitution is disputed, the court must conduct a hearing to determine whether restitution is appropriate and how much that restitution should be. Prosecutors have the burden of proof at this hearing. They must prove:
- the loss was caused by the criminal conduct the defendant; and
- the fair market value of the loss; or
- if that cannot be determined, the replacement value of the loss.
Often, people who are convicted fail to challenge the amount of restitution; they realize later they should have, but the opportunity is (by then) forever lost. An attorney familiar with restitution issues could have helped them. If you are facing criminal charges or have been convicted but not yet sentenced, and you would like to protect yourself, contact me. Criminal convictions are expensive enough without having to pay hundreds (or thousands) of dollars more than you should.