Can I get restitution as a crime victim? Ask the lawyer

Q: My wife and I operate a business. A trusted employee was caught and convicted of embezzlement to the tune of $200,000. The judge ordered monthly restitution payments, but we only got two. Time has passed because it was too difficult to pursue legal action, but now we have greater resources. Are we still entitled to restitution?

M.K., Signal Hill

Ron Sokol

A: Research indicates a restitution order in a criminal case is enforceable as if it were a civil judgment. Research further provides that the restitution obligation cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, is permanent and is inheritable. So you can pursue the former employee, and retention of a lawyer or collection agency is an option.

Q: I am the victim of a criminal battery, have medical bills and, unfortunately, now have some difficult psychological issues. What can I request as restitution?

J.L., Hawthorne

A: The court is to award restitution to the victim in the full amount of the economic loss, which can include: (a) full or partial payment for the value of stolen or damaged property, (b) medical expenses, (c) mental health counseling costs, (d) wages or profits lost and, if the victim is a minor, then wages or profits lost by the parent or guardian while caring for the injured minor, (e) expenses to install or increase residential security relating to the crime, (f) actual and reasonable attorney fees and other costs of collection associated with a private attorney on behalf of the victim, (g) expenses to retrofit a residence or vehicle, or both, to make each operationable if the victim is permanently disabled (in whole or in part) as a result of the crime; and (h) if the conviction involves a felony violation of child molestation, the court may order restitution for non-economic losses, including psychological harm.

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Victim’s Compensation Board

The California Victim’s Compensation Board has helpful information online about a victim’s rights to restitution: victims.ca.gov/for-victims/who-is-eligible.

Ron Sokol has been a practicing attorney for over 35 years, and has also served many times as a judge pro tem, mediator, and arbitrator. It is important to keep in mind that this column presents a summary of the law, and is not to be treated or considered legal advice, let alone a substitute for actual consultation with a qualified professional.

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