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Guide for Victims of Crime - Sentencing and Restitution

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Sentencing is usually the last action of the trial court. After conviction of an offender, the judge imposes some sanction or punishment within the limits set by the legislature. A judge will have some leeway, but the criminal code sets out the minimum and maximum length of sentence.

The sentencing hearing usually is fairly short. Evidence may or may not be presented during the hearing. The defense attorney will make a statement on behalf of the offender, noting factors that the judge could use to lower the penalty. The prosecutor will give the government’s position, which may include reasons why the judge should lengthen the sentence. The offender may speak on his or her own behalf, and the victim may speak as well.

Sentences Can Have Several Parts:

Jail time, suspended time, probation conditions, and fines.
  • Jail sentences may range from no time in jail to more than 99 years. At the time of sentencing, offenders receive credit for any jail time served prior to trial and sentencing.

  • The judge may suspend part or all of a jail sentence and place the offender on probation. The offender stays on probation for a specific time, with restrictions on activities.

  • Probation conditions may require an offender to keep a job or stay in school, support a family, or get counseling or substance abuse treatment.

  • Probation conditions also may require the offender to stay away from you or to pay you restitution.

If the offender does not meet these conditions, the judge may put the offender in jail, or impose other restrictions.

Restitution

If you have suffered out-of-pocket expenses as the result of property damages, lost wages or medical expenses, the judge may order the offender to pay restitution to you. It is important to specify losses when requesting restitution and to keep receipts for your expenses. The judge may hold a hearing to prove the amount of restitution.

Restitution payments can be collected while an inmate is in prison. Offenders often make payments weekly or monthly and the payments are forwarded to the victim. In some cases, a victim can get a civil judgment to enforce the order of restitution.

Restitution in criminal cases covers only your actual expenses. To recover for pain and suffering or loss of companionship, you must file a separate civil lawsuit against the defendant.

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