Los Angeles DUI and Restitution
Many driving under the influence cases involve allegations that the driver was involved in a DUI collision that caused injuries or property damage. In these cases, the defendant may be required to pay restitution to the victim for any damages incurred. Restitution is often an important part of any sentence as prosecutors and judges want to ensure that victims are fully compensated for their losses resulting from the defendant’s DUI offense.
Many defendants question why they may be required to pay civil damages as part of a criminal conviction. Before restitution statutes were passed, victims would have to separately sue for damages in civil court. The legislature recognized that this put a heavy burden on victims and has amended criminal statutes to allow victims to collect restitution through the criminal court system by making payment of restitution a term of a defendant’s probation.
In most DUI cases where there is a victim seeking damages, the judge will order a restitution hearing. Prior to the hearing, the prosecutor will contact any known victim to see if there are any damages being sought. In many cases where the defendant had an auto insurance policy, the insurer will have already compensated the victim or is in the process of settling the claim. In these cases, the restitution may be taken “off calendar” and will be moot unless the victim comes forward with a claim during the period of the defendant’s probation.
In some cases, there may be a victim or multiple victims still seeking to recover damages from the defendant. The defendant may not have had auto insurance or may have had policy limits that did not fully compensate the victim. In these cases, the victim can seek restitution from the defendant. Typically at the time of sentencing, the defendant will stipulate to liability but not the amount of restitution owed. The victim will present his or her demand for restitution and the defendant can challenge the amount sought through a restitution hearing. If the victim is claiming excessive medical injuries or property damage, he or she would have to provide documentation and/or receipts in support of his or her demand. The defendant may have to subpoena medical records or other material in order to refute the victim’s claims.
Even if a victim has settled with the defendant’s insurer and has signed a release of liability, the defendant may still have to pay restitution to the victim if the victim was not fully compensated. The Court would give the defendant credit for any amount already paid to the victim and would reduce the ultimate restitution award accordingly.
Under California Government Code § 53150, cities and local authorities are allowed to collect restitution for “the expense of an emergency response” for defendant’s who are convicted of a DUI offense. In some cases, local authorities may demand that the defendant pay for the cost of an emergency response.
If the defendant is ordered to pay restitution, this condition would be considered a term of probation. A willful failure to pay could result in a probation violation and even possible jail time. If the defendant is unable to pay restitution, the Court may extend the defendant’s probation term until restitution has been paid in full or may convert the restitution award to a civil judgement against the defendant.
If you have been charged with DUI and are concerned about restitution requirements, it is critical that you meet with a Los Angeles DUI Attorney immediately. Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who is highly skilled at litigating complex restitution issues that often arise in DUI cases.
For more information about Los Angeles DUI and restitution, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.