What is Restitution?
When a crime is committed, it is possible that the victim or that crime, or their family, have suffered some sort of financial loss. For example, a theft results in the loss of whatever the value is of the item stole. But also, if a car window was broken in the court of that theft, the costs associated with repairing that window is also a loss to the car owner. Restitution is when the person who has been convicted must pay back the victim who has suffered a loss.
At the time of sentencing, a Judge will determine if restitution is appropriate, and if so, how much. Additionally, the Judge will look at the offender's financial circumstances to determine if they have the ability to repay the money, and if so, how much and over what period of time. The Court then makes that part of the person's sentence for that offense.
If you are victim of a crime, you should provide documentation of any losses to the prosecutor's office so that this can be supplied to the defense attorney and to the Court so that appropriate restitution can be sought. If you are a Defendant and someone is seeking restitution, you should ask to see this documentation. You should also be prepared to discuss a payment plan with the Court, if you are convicted. This will likely involve advising the court of what sources of income you have or will have, and what reasonable amount you think you can afford.
Probation collects these payments and has methods of enforcing the payments. Probation then forwards the payments to the victims. If you are a victim, you should always make sure Probation has you current address and other contact information so that you can be sure you receive any restitution you are entitled to. If you are a Defendant, you should make sure to communicate with probation if there are any changes to your financial situation which may impact your ability to continue to pay. It is always better to be honest if you are having trouble keeping up with payments, rather than simply be charged with a violation.
The New Jersey Courts website has a great fact sheet you can check out for more information HERE.