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.