Understanding Restitution in Georgia Criminal Cases

Restitution is money a criminal defendant may have to pay as part of a guilty plea or conviction. The amount is based on how much the victim lost as the result of a crimes. For example, if a defendant stole a tv or caused damage to property, he may be ordered to pay for the value of the tv or the cost of the damage as restitution. Restitution can then be made a special condition of probation.

How is Restitution Calculated?

Georgia case law makes clear that the amount of restitution ordered can be equal to or less than the victim’s damages, but it cannot be more. Generally speaking, to determine restitution, the prosecutor speaks with the victim and gets a total of the amount of damages incurred from the conduct. However, if the Defendant does not agree to the amount in question, Georgia Code 17-14-7 permits the Defendant to request a restitution hearing.

At the restitution hearing, the burden is on the state to prove by the preponderance of the evidence the amount in question. The Defendant is required to show his available financial resources. The judge is then required to issue a decision with written findings of fact. It is also important to note that the evidence produced at trial cannot be used in lieu of a restitution hearing.

In making her determination, the Judge is required to consider the following factors:

  1. The financial resources and other assets of the offender or person ordered to pay restitution including whether any of the assets are jointly controlled;
  2. The earnings and other income of the offender or person ordered to pay restitution
  3. Any financial obligations of the offender or person ordered to pay restitution, including obligations to dependents
  4. The amount of damages
  5. The goal of restitution to the victim and the goal of rehabilitation of the offender
  6. Any restitution previously made
  7. The period of time during which the restitution order will be in effect
  8. Other factors which the ordering authority deems to be appropriate

If you or someone you know is planning to enter a guilty plea but does not agree to the restitution amount, hire a Georgia criminal defense attorney to help negotiate the restitution or conduct a restitution hearing.

What is the Child Abuse Registry?

In the last couple of years, many individuals charged with crimes in Georgia have gotten a notice in the mail stating that they have been put on the “Child Abuse Registry.” This notice usually comes after an arrest or investigation, but often comes before a person has been convicted or even charged with a crime.

The notice states that the person has 10 days to return a notice appealing placement on the list or else they will be placed on the list permanently. If the person appeals within the allotted time frame, a hearing is set to determine if the person should be removed from the registry. The Child Abuse Registry (or “CAR”) was established by statute in 2016, and extends to certain crimes allegedly committed on or after July 1, 2016. If you have been served with such a notice, contact an attorney immediately.

What Crimes Put a Person on CAR?

While many obvious crimes like molestation and child sexual abuse will place somebody on the registry, the registry extends to physical abuse and charges like cruelty to children in the third degree. Cruelty to children in the third degree occurs when there has been a family violence battery committed, and a child younger than the age of 18 either heard or saw the incident. The primary aggressor in the family violence battery would also be guilty of cruelty to children in the third degree.

A full list of the types of crimes and conduct that can put someone on CAR can found in Section 49-5-183 of the Georgia Code.

What If I Have Been Wrongly Placed on the Registry?

If you have been accused of a crime you didn’t commit, it is crucial that you return the notice of appeal requesting that your name be removed from the registry within the appropriate timeframe. You should consult with an attorney to ensure you have filed the paperwork correctly.

Once you file the appeal, you will receive a notice of a hearing in the mail with a court date before a Georgia administrative law judge. At that hearing, the Division of Family and Children Services is tasked with showing that you committed the acts in question by a preponderance of the evidence. Preponderance of the evidence means it is more likely than not (more than 50%) that you committed the crime or crimes in question. If DFCS does not meet its burden, the administrative judge will issue a written decision ordering your name to be removed from the registry.

The hearing itself functions much like a criminal trial with opening statements, rules of evidence, calling of witnesses, and closing argument. However, there is no jury called, and the administrative law judge decides both questions of law and fact.

Given the serious nature and consequences of being put on the Child Abuse Registry, it is important that you retain an attorney to represent you at the hearing. An attorney can present witnesses and evidence, cross examine witnesses, argue the law, and make your case before the judge. If you are in need of an attorney, give us a call for a free consultation today.