Restitution Orders Arising out of Criminal Cases in Colorado

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines restitution as the making good of or giving an equivalent for some injury. Defined simply, it’s the process of making someone ‘whole.’ The legislature has created a scheme in which the District Attorney is empowered to seek restitution in order to make the victim of a crime whole.

Frequently, when someone commits a crime, there is someone else who takes, or experiences, a loss. This is clear when the alleged crime is theft – someone took an item that belonged to someone else. Restitution would be the process of restoring that item back to that person or otherwise ‘paying them back.’

In other cases, like simple driving infractions, it may be difficult to identify or determine whether there is any victim at all.

Under Colorado law, specifically C.R.S. 18-1.3-603, there must be a discussion of restitution whenever anyone is convicted of an offense (felony, misdemeanor, petty, or traffic misdemeanor offense). Sometimes that discussion is short and obvious – there is no victim of the crime that suffered a pecuniary loss and therefore no order for the payment of restitution is entered. Other times, there will either be a specific amount of restitution which is ordered at the time of the conviction/sentencing. Finally, there may be an order that the defendant is obligated to pay restitution but that the specific amount of restitution shall be determined within ninety-one days immediately following the order of conviction.

Having an attorney who understands the restitution process and how to make sure that your financial liability is as limited as possible can make all the difference in your case.

When the Court issuing their order for restitution, it bases that determination “upon information presented to the court by the prosecuting attorney, who shall compile such information through victim impact statements.” This typically means that the prosecutor speaks directly to the ‘victim’ in the case and tries to figure out what that person needs in order to be returned to their previous state of being ‘whole.’ With that said, and critically important to your defense, restitution is not about putting someone in a better place then they had been previously – it’s about putting them right where they were.

One very important theme throughout the restitution statute is that the statute does not want victims to experience a windfall. Many cases that involve restitution are cases based on driving based offenses or accidents. In that regard, the court “shall order restitution concerning only the portion of the victim’s pecuniary loss for which the victim cannot be compensated under a policy of insurance, self-insurance, an indemnity agreement or a risk management fund.

In short, if you cause $1,500 damage to someone vehicle and their insurance covers $1,000 of that $1,500 then you should not be responsibly to them for the full $1,500. Rather, you would only be responsible for $500 plus any deductible paid to the insurance company.

A restitution order is a final civil judgment in favor of the state and the ‘victim.’ As such, it remains in force until the restitution is paid in full. This seems obvious but this ‘permanent-until-paid’ can lead to interesting questions and, unfortunately, poor decisions by defendants. For example, someone on a deferred judgment may finish the term of that deferred judgment and may do so without having any issues arise. With that said, that person may finish their deferred and feel that their obligations are complete. That is only true if the restitution that they owed is paid in full.

Further, the restitution statute does not allow for restitution to be discharged through bankruptcy. Any amount of restitution ordered against you will inevitably paid. This highlights why it is so essential to have an experienced and determined attorney on your side. We understand that every dollar is hard-earned and will fight to ensure that your interests are protected. Contact a Denver restitution attorney today for a free consultation.