Monday, August 28, 2006

Enforcing Criminal Restitution Orders in California

Question: After a thief pled guilty to embezzling a large sum of money from me, the judge sentenced the defendant to prison and ordered him to pay me restitution. The defendant is now out of prison and has not repaid me the money. What can I do to collect the money owed to me?

Answer: Prosecutors often do not have the resources to collect on restitution orders, so the beneficiary of the restitution order should consider retaining private counsel to collect the amount owed. The California Judicial Council has designed a set of standardized questions the victim can use to gather information regarding the defendant's assets. See Judicial Council Form CR-200, Form Interrogatories - Crime Victim Restitution. The victim may serve the interrogatories once the restitution has remained unpaid for more than one year.

A restitution order is enforceable the same way as as a civil judgment. The victim may use all the same methods as the judgment creditor in a civil matter and many of these methods were discussed in a previous article. Common methods of enforcing restitution orders include wage garnishments, bank account levies and judgment debtor examinations. Some court clerks do not know how to issue a writ of execution based on a restitution order in a criminal case, so it may be necessary to obtain an order directing the clerk to issue the writ of execution and other court documents related to the judgment collection process.

Hiring a private attorney to collect the restitution order is a continuation of the victim's right restitution. Therefore, the victim can also recover attorney's fees incurred to recover restitution. An experienced attorney with collection experience can more aggressively and efficiently than an overworked prosecutor or an unrepresented crime victim.

About the Author
Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.

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