Restitution Defined: Fines, Orders and Penalty Assessments
Restitution - Fines
Restitution fines are required by law in every criminal case in which an adult offender is convicted of a crime, unless a judge finds compelling and extraordinary reasons that the offender should not pay a fine. Fines for adults convicted of misdemeanors range from $120 to $1,000. Adults convicted of felonies must pay between $240 to $10,000. (Penal Code section 1202.4(b))
State prison: When an adult offender is sentenced to state prison and receives a period of parole (frequently this is referred to as a “parole revocation fine”) a fine is imposed in the same amount as the original restitution fine but is suspended unless the offender’s parole status is revoked. (Penal Code section 1202.45)
County level cases: When an adult offender receives a sentence at county jail and/or a period of probation a trial court shall impose an additional restitution fine (frequently this is referred to as a “probation revocation restitution fine”). This fine is imposed in the same amount as the original restitution fine but is suspended unless the offender’s probation status is revoked. (Penal Code section 1202.44)
A mandatory “diversion restitution fee” of $100 to $1,000 is imposed on all adults whose cases are diverted in lieu of conviction. (Penal Code section 1001.90)
Restitution fines are also mandatory in juvenile cases, unless a judge finds compelling and extraordinary reasons that the offender should not pay a fine. Juvenile offenders convicted of misdemeanors pay up to $100. In a felony, juveniles must pay between $100 and $1,000. (Welf. & Inst. Code section 730.6(d))
Restitution - Orders
Anytime a crime victim suffers a loss, the offender should be ordered to pay restitution for that loss. A victim’s right to a criminal restitution order stems from Article I, section 28(b) of the California Constitution.
Restitution orders are to be imposed for the full amount of a victim’s economic loss. If the amount of a victim’s loss is not known at the time of the offender’s sentencing, the restitution order shall later be determined at the direction of the court. (Penal Code section 1202.4(f))
Additionally, an offender has the right to a hearing to dispute the amount of restitution ordered by the judge. (Penal Code section 1202.4(f)(1))
Restitution orders are enforceable as if they were civil judgments. (Penal Code section 1214(a) and (b) However, restitution orders are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, nor are there any statutes of limitations. No need exists to convert restitution orders to civil judgments.
If a victim of crime has received financial assistance from CalVCP, the offender may be ordered by the court to repay the program via a restitution order pursuant to Penal Code 1202.4(f).
If an offender has unpaid restitution fines and orders, California Law allows for the possible extension of probation. If the offender was previously incarcerated by CDCR, the VCGCB utilizes the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) to garnish and collect unpaid fines. Liens may be placed on inheritances for unpaid restitution.
In addition, collection of restitution can be conducted by county probation offices, the courts, collection offices and others. If the offender is a CDCR inmate, restitution is automatically deducted from inmate trust account deposits. If the offender is on parole, collection of restitution may be conducted by his or her parole agent or outstanding balances may be forwarded to the FTB for collection.
Restitution - Penalty Assessments
State and local penalty assessments are levied on every fine (other than restitution fines) imposed by the court system, including traffic offenses. The state penalty assessment is equal to 100% of the amount of the fine that is imposed, and a portion of the penalty assessments are assigned to the Fund after it is collected at the county level.