If you are convicted of a criminal offense in Boston you could be ordered to pay restitution as part of your sentence. Likewise, the payment of restitution is often included in a plea agreement negotiated between you and the prosecutor in a criminal case. Because you could be responsible for paying a hefty sum in restitution in Boston it is important that you understand what it is intended to represent and what restitution does not cover. Many criminal prosecutions involve a victim. In fact, if you think about it, everything from rape to petty theft has a victim. In many cases a victim suffers an economic loss as a result of the crime. The store owner in a petty theft prosecution, for example, suffered the loss of the value of the goods stolen. In a burglary, the homeowner suffers the loss of the items stolen as well as the costs involved in repairing any damage to the home. In a violent crime, the victim often suffers physical injuries that require medical treatment and, consequently, incur medical bills. Because the defendant is responsible for the economic losses suffered by a victim the law allows the court to order the defendant to reimburse the victim by ordering restitution. However, according to Commonwealth v. Nawn, 394 Mass. 1 (1985), the Court cannot order a defendant to pay restitution that he cannot, realistically, afford. It is important not to confuse restitution with compensation awarded in a civil lawsuit. In a criminal prosecution the victim is compensated, if at all, for quantifiable losses, rather than for non-quantifiable matters, such as “pain and suffering.” Sometimes, a defendant can be ordered to pay restitution and be sued in a civil lawsuit over the same incident. For example, imagine that you are involved in a bar fight and are charged with assault as a result. If convicted of the assault you could be ordered to pay restitution to cover the hospital bill of the victim. The victim could then also file a civil lawsuit based on the intentional tort of assault. If the lawsuit is successful, the victim could recover non-economic damages (pain and suffering) for the emotional trauma the victim suffered as a result of the fight and subsequent injuries. Keep in mind that, if you are sentenced to probation, failing to pay court ordered restitution within the time provided is considered a violation of probation. Your credit report can also be impacted by your failure to pay. If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Boston be sure to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure that you are not required to pay more restitution than is reasonable and that all of your other rights are protected.
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