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What Is the Restitution Law in Pennsylvania?

Posted in Victims Of Crime on Wednesday, April 10, 2024.

In addition to things like incarceration, fines paid to the government, probation, and community service, criminal courts in Pennsylvania can also order people convicted of certain crimes to pay restitution. Unlike other sanctions, which are meant specifically to punish the defendant for their actions, the purpose of restitution is to help people negatively impacted by the defendant’s actions by reimbursing them for losses they have suffered through the criminal act in question.

The restitution law in Pennsylvania does not allow every victim of every type of criminal act to receive payments. There are various restrictions and caveats to this restitution. Our knowledgeable attorney could explain how state law currently defines restitution as part of the criminal justice process.

Who Is Eligible for Restitution?

As per 18 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes § 1106, there are two circumstances under which a court may order a convicted criminal defendant to pay restitution. First, the court may order restitution if the defendant’s crime involved stealing someone else’s property or causing the value of that property to significantly decrease. Second, the court may order restitution if the defendant caused personal injury to someone else as a direct result of their criminal act.

In either scenario, the court has the authority to order whatever amount of restitution is necessary to give the victim the fullest compensation for their loss, regardless of the defendant’s own financial resources. Depending on the circumstances, the court may order a single lump-sum payment, payments in monthly installments, or other methods of payment like wage garnishment.

What Is the Victims Compensation Assistance Program?

In addition to court-ordered restitution, someone injured as a result of another person’s criminal act may also be able to receive financial assistance from the Crime Victim’s Compensation Board. The Victims Compensation Assistance Program overseen by this Board may provide additional money to crime victims to help cover things like medical bills, counseling, crime scene clean-up, and funeral expenses in the event of a homicide.

To be eligible for this program, you must apply for assistance within two years of suffering harm through a crime, and you typically must have lost at least $100 through that crime. You may also need to have reported the crime within three days of its occurrence, although a legal professional could discuss possible exceptions.

Filing Suit Against Someone for Restitution from a Criminal Act

Importantly, receiving restitution or victim’s assistance after being harmed through a criminal act does not prevent you from also filing a civil lawsuit against the person who committed that crime. While you cannot recover twice for losses already covered through court-ordered restitution or victim’s assistance, you can seek compensation through a lawsuit for losses like physical pain and psychological suffering that these programs would not cover.

Our legal team could explain the restitution law in Pennsylvania in more detail during a confidential meeting. Call today to discuss your options.