The Victim Restitution Fund Explained

Compensation for Victims of Crime The Victim Restitution Fund Explained

The Victim Restitution Fund Helps You Recover Your Losses

Crime shouldn’t pay, and both state and federal governments in the U.S. recognize this.

If a criminal is convicted in any state in the country, the court can order them to pay restitution to their victim(s), on top of a fine or custodial sentence.

We understand that being the victim of a crime can be traumatic and painful. DoNotPay is here to help you understand how you can benefit from the Victim Restitution Fund in your state.

What Is Restitution?

Restitution is a payment made to a victim of crime to offset any losses they have incurred.

It is normally ordered by the court as part of the sentence imposed on the criminal on top of whatever punishment is handed down. It differs from crime victim compensation in that the criminal, not a state fund, is responsible for paying the victim. In some cases, the criminal may be ordered to repay the compensation fund any compensation payments the victim has been awarded.

A court will usually order restitution to be paid if:

  1. The victim has suffered direct financial losses as a result of the crime
  2. The criminal would be rehabilitated more easily if they were to reimburse the losses they have caused
  3. The victim would benefit psychologically from financial compensation

It is up to the court whether it orders restitution to be paid, but certain cases almost always involve a restitution order as part of the sentence. These cases include:

  • Fraud
  • Theft
  • Crimes against the elderly
  • Hate crimes
  • Domestic abuse
  • Child abuse
  • Sexual abuse against adults or children
  • DUI
  • Identity fraud

How Does the Victim Restitution Fund Work?

Restitution is different from compensation in that compensation is paid to victims out of state funds while restitution is paid by the criminal. In certain cases, though, the criminal may not have the financial means to do so. In these situations, the court can call on the federal or state restitution funds to compensate the victim.

The federal fund, as the name suggests, is reserved for federal crimes, while each state has a compensation fund to compensate victims of state crimes.

The criminal still has to pay, though. The court can order restitution to be paid immediately out of federal or state funds but can recoup the money from the criminal at a later date.

If, as an example, the criminal is currently penniless but expects to receive a significant inheritance on reaching a certain age, the court can order the victim to receive immediate restitution from the state fund and recoup the money from the criminal as soon as the criminal is able to pay.

Who Can Claim Restitution?

Restitution is paid to identified victims, meaning those people or businesses the court has identified as having fallen victim to the criminal activity.

Restitution is available to the following people or bodies:

Eligible party


Direct victimRestitution is normally paid to anybody who has been directly impacted by a crime
Indirect victimIn homicide cases, surviving family members of the victim are eligible to claim restitution
Third partiesAny organization that has provided compensation to a victim can claim restitution from the criminal. Such organizations could include:

  • Victim compensation funds
  • Insurance companies
  • Medical schemes
  • Creditors
GovernmentIf no identifiable victim has been found in a criminal case, the state or federal government can order the criminal to pay restitution to cover the costs of investigating the case. This often happens in drug crime, prostitution, and welfare fraud cases

If you are the victim of a crime and think you can claim restitution, here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Contact the investigating case agent
  2. Describe the impact of the crime

Contact the Investigating Case Agent

Your first step is to contact the investigator in the case and set out the impact the crime has had on you in a written statement. This becomes part of the case file presented to the court by the probation officer before the criminal is sentenced.

Describe the Impact of the Crime

You should describe the financial impact of the crime and back your description up with bills, receipts, and documentation. Restitution normally only covers tangible losses, not psychological trauma. The document you put together is called a Victim Impact Statement.

The court collects all the victim impact statements and takes them into account when sentencing the criminal.

What Can You Claim Restitution For?

As the victim of a crime, you can claim restitution for:

  • Medical expenses—including hospital costs, physiotherapy, and rehab fees. In most states, counseling and longer-term expenses are permissible
  • Lost wages—whether as a direct result of the crime or as a result of having to attend the court hearing
  • Direct out-of-pocket expenses—such as insurance premium hikes or credit record repair costs
  • Lost or damaged property—as opposed to victim compensation payouts, which generally do not cover property losses as a result of a crime

The amount of restitution a criminal has to pay is determined by the court based on the criminal’s financial state, but the court can take into account their future prospects as well as their current financial health.

The court can also order a lien or garnishment over a longer period so that the state gets the restitution money back as it becomes available.

How Can DoNotPay Help?

We know how traumatic it is to be the victim of crime, and we are here to help in any way possible.

Restitution can only be ordered by a court, but DoNotPay can help you claim compensation if you have been the victim of a crime. No matter what your victim status—9/11 victim, domestic abuse sufferer, car accident victim, or bereaved spouse in a homicide case—DoNotPay will support you.

We have developed a tool to help you file your claim for compensation with a few clicks.

To get help with your claim, all you have to do is:

  1. Navigate to DoNotPay and sign up
  2. Click on the Compensation for Crime Victims feature
  3. Tell us whether you are the victim or another claimant
  4. Give us the details we need about the crime and verify your signature

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