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Restitution for Crime Victims in New Jersey

Someone who gets into criminal problems, like a DWI, can rack up a lot in fines and debts when s/he has to pay restitution to the victim. Restitution is money a court orders a criminal defendant to pay a victim for economic losses related to a crime.

In New Jersey, victim restitution allows a suit against the defendant for loss of wages, property damages, and medical expenses. Restitution applies only to economic losses. The victim can get damages from the defendant for noneconomic losses through a civil lawsuit. Restitution is a legally entitled element for a victim in any criminal case when there is a convicted person to seek money from.

The victim in the case will have his/her own attorney for a civil case and the district attorney in the criminal case on his/her side so the criminal defendant should get an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney to assist through the complex legal process. Someone charged with a DWI where someone suffers personal injuries can face a misdemeanor or felony.

In a restitution hearing, the defendant needs to be present. If the defendant does not appear to contest the amount to pay, the court may order a bench warrant for the defendant to appear. The victim may take part in restitution order procedures before the victim files a civil action. The court and attorneys will review the victim’s medical and billing records, employment lost wages, and property damages. In New Jersey, the victim can recover attorney fees incurred in establishing restitution.

The restitution order decided after all evidence is presented will not include any award for punitive damages, but that will not stop a victim from going after punitives in civil courts. Restitution awards accrue interest each year. The judge has discretion to make the victim whole so that even if the victim cannot go back to the place before the crime, the results are easier to bear.

Once the court enters the restitution order, the victim will request an order of examination to find out the defendant’s finances to collect on the restitution order. The victim may get an attachment order against the defendant’s assets, and the court may enter an order to deduct income from the defendant. The defendant may think to file bankruptcy, but restitution orders are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

The restitution order gives the victim leverage in a civil lawsuit. The victim can put a lien on the defendant’s real estate for the restitution amount, and use the restitution award to negotiate non-economic and punitive damages.

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