Texas judges have the authority to order a convicted offender to pay restitution to a victim of the crime. Financial losses incurred by a victim usually are included in a pre-sentence report and victim impact statement that a judge reviews before imposing a sentence. Restitution can be ordered as a condition of probation or as a condition to a plea bargain.
Both restitution and compensation are paid to the victim of a crime, but the difference is the source of the payment. Restitution is paid directly to the victim by the offender. Compensation is paid by the state to crime victims through the Texas Crime Victims’ Compensation Program. The compensation funds come from court fees and fines that are collected in criminal cases. The fund is administered by the state attorney general.
The state compensation program does not cover all losses incurred by a crime victim. For example, compensation under the state program is not available for damage to property or other property crimes. Some expenses covered through the state compensation program include:
Crime victims receiving compensation through the state program would not receive restitution directly from the offender for the same losses. A judge can order an offender to pay restitution to a crime victim for losses, such as property damage, not payable under the state compensation program.
Judges might order the payment of restitution by an offender to reimburse the state for compensation paid to a victim. Prosecutors usually check with the state to verify compensation payments to a victim. This happens before a person charged with committing a crime is allowed to enter into a plea bargain to determine if prosecutors should ask a judge to order the payment of restitution.
Article I, Section 30(4) of the Texas Constitution gives crime victims the right to receive restitution from a person convicted of committing a crime. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure compels judges who do not order restitution payments to explain their reasons on the record. In lieu of a restitution payment, judges can order a convicted offender to pay a one-time $50 charge to the Texas Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund. Those convicted of committing a felony must pay $100.
Under recent legislation, installment payments of court ordered restitution must include a $12 transaction fee for each installment. Half of the transaction fee goes to the state compensation fund, and the other half goes to the court in which the restitution order was made.
If you are being ordered to pay restitution fees, then set up a free legal consultation session with Rand Mintzer by calling 713-862-8880.