What to Expect When Paying Restitution in Arizona


Crimes often cause a negative financial situation for the victims affected by the offense. Restitution is a way for people to seek restoration for the losses suffered during and after a crime. Usually, a victim of an offense will receive restitution from the perpetrator to help cover their lost wages, damaged property, and medical expenses among other costs.

Both civil and criminal cases can involve restitution. To receive it, the victim must speak with a pre-sentence investigator or present evidence to the court, showing they’ve withstood economic consequences from the crime. The judge will look at the losses suffered by the victim to figure out the appropriate restitution amount.

Criminal Restitution Factors in Arizona

A.R.S. 13-804 is the Arizona law for criminal restitution. Here’s the most important things to know:

  • Restitution is a method for perpetrators to contribute to the financial recovery of their victims
  • It can cover dental and medical expenses, lost wages, mental health expenses, and more
  • Restitution can be paid to a single victim or multiple, depending on the case in question
  • Restitution must be ordered by the court and can be taken from tax refunds, wages, and other sources
  • Talking with an attorney is helpful if you need answers to specific questions about criminal restitution

Restitution money comes from penalties and surcharges that criminals are ordered to pay, which is often automatically deducted from the offender during their incarceration. It must be ordered by a court to be allocated and can be received by the government and third parties in addition to direct victims of the offense.

Restitution can help cover dental costs, counseling charges, funeral and burial fees, crime scene clean-up, and emergency relocation in addition to lost wages or property damages. There are some losses that restitution doesn’t cover, such as consequential losses, pain and suffering, and punitive damages. A criminal restitution order can intercept lottery winnings, state income tax refunds, wages (in some cases), and civil judgment awards among other financial resources.

What Elements Determine Restitution Amounts?

The court will consider a number of factors when determining how much restitution a perpetrator owes a victim, including (but not limited to):

  • The losses the victim experienced
  • The financial benefits gained by the perpetrator
  • How serious the offense was and the specific circumstances involved
  • The economic burden experienced by the government and people injured due to the crime

How do Restitution Liens Work?

Arizona law allows the victim of a crime to file a restitution lien against the property or future property of the perpetrator. In the event of a restitution lien, the victim will hold the lien and release it as soon as they’ve received the full restitution amount.

Penalties You Might Face in Addition to Restitution

Restitution is far from the only penalty you might face if you’ve been in legal trouble. You might also be looking at probation, fines, community service, suspension of your license, and a permanent criminal record. If you have prior convictions on your record, or your crime was committed in addition to other offenses, you’ll potentially face higher fines, stricter probation, and a longer incarceration sentence.

Possible Defenses for Criminal Offenses

When you go on trial for a crime, the state must prove that you’re guilty behind reasonable doubt. You may present a defense through various means and hire an attorney to help you attain the most favorable outcome possible. They might be able to prove your innocence through evidence, show that you had reason to act as you did, or argue that you didn’t understand the implications of your actions.

In other cases, they might be able to show errors in the police work regarding your case or show that you were acting in self-defense regarding the crimes you’ve been accused of.

FAQ Related to Criminal Restitution

Here are some common questions you might have regarding criminal restitution:

Q: What if the court can’t decide on the right restitution amount to assign?
If the judge isn’t able to choose the right amount, or there’s an objection to what they decide, the court can request a hearing or keep the restitution open until an amount is determined.

Q: What if the crime that requires restitution involved more than one victim?
A: If the offender had several victims, the restitution amount will be divided among them. The Clerk of Court will not typically send out a restitution check to a victim until it’s reached a specified, county-determined amount.

Q: What if I can’t pay the restitution amount ordered by the court?
A: If you can’t cover the restitution amount, the Clerk of Court can request to look further into why you’re unable to pay it after notifying the prosecutor. At this time, they can schedule a hearing to determine if modifying the amount of restitution is necessary or possible.

Q: What happens if I don’t pay my restitution amount in full after a felony conviction?
A: If you fail to comply with your restitution order, you might have your probation term extended by as much as 5 years. If you still haven’t paid the full amount by the time your sentence ends, you’ll receive a restitution order for the unpaid balance, which a civil court can enforce.

Q: How is victim compensation different from criminal restitution?
A: Criminal restitution is paid by the defendant to the victim to cover losses resulting from a crime, while victim compensation uses a statewide program to cover expenses related to criminal offenses and is funded by fees and fines. To receive victim compensation, you must apply for it. The suspect doesn’t have to be charged or identified for a victim to receive compensation.

What to Do if You’re Facing Charges

In some cases, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you get your penalties (including restitution) reduced or dismissed altogether. Whether this is possible will depend on the unique circumstances regarding the charge, whether you have any prior offenses on your record, and other factors. The best way to find out more information about your situation is to talk to an attorney today. They’ll answer your questions and help you figure out the best steps to take from here.

Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.

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