In every case where a person is convicted of a crime, the court shall impose a separate and additional restitution fine, unless compelling and extraordinary reasons for not imposing the fine are stated on the record. (Pen. Code § 1202.4, subdivision (b).) The restitution fine shall be set at the discretion of the court, at least $150 and not more than $1,000 for a misdemeanor conviction, and at least $300 and not more than $10,000 for a felony conviction. (Pen. Code § 1202.4, subd. (b)(1).) A restitution fine will be imposed regardless of whether there is a victim and/or restitution order in the case.
In setting the fine above the minimum, the court may consider any relevant factors including, but not limited to, the offender’s ability to pay, the seriousness and gravity of the offense and the circumstances of its commission, any economic gain derived by the offender as a result of the crime, the extent to which any other person suffered any losses as a result of the crime, and the number of victims involved in the crime. The offender bears the burden of demonstrating their inability to pay. (Pen. Code § 1202.4, subd. (d).)
The Juvenile Court shall consider imposing a restitution fine against a minor who is found to violate the law. (Welf. & Inst. Code § 730.6, subd. (a)(2)(A). For misdemeanor offenses, the fine shall not exceed $100. For felony offenses, the fine shall not be less than $100 and not more than $1,000. (Welf. & Inst. Code § 730.6, subd. (b).)
In setting the fine amount, the court shall take into consideration the minor’s ability to pay, seriousness and gravity of the offense and the circumstances of its commission, any economic gain derived by the minor as a result of the offense, as well as the extent to which others suffered losses as a result of the offense, to ensure the fine is commensurate with the crime. (Welf. & Inst. Code § 730.6, subd. (d)(1).)
In every case in which a victim suffered an economic loss as a result of the defendant’s conduct, the court shall require the defendant make restitution to the victim and/or victims in an amount established by court order. (Pen. Code § 1202.4, subd. (f).) An offender’s inability to pay shall not be considered in determining the amount of the restitution order. (Pen. Code § 1202.4, subd. (g).) The court can impose noneconomic losses, including, but not limited to, psychological harm, for felony violations of Penal Code sections 288, 288.5, or 288.7. (Pen. Code § 1202.4, subd. (f)(3)(F).)
In every case in which a victim suffered an economic loss as a result of the minor’s criminal conduct, the court shall require the minor make restitution to the victim. (Welf. & Inst. Code § 730.6, subd. (a)(1).) A minor’s inability to pay shall not be considered in determining the amount of the order. (Welf. & Inst. Code § 730.6, subd. (h).)
The minor, and the parent or guardian who has custody and control of the minor, may be jointly and severally liable with the minor for the restitution. (Welf & Inst. Code § 730.7, subd. (a).) The court, in determining the parent/guardian’s liability, can consider the parent/guardian’s inability to pay as well as the number of dependents and specific financial obligations. However, the court, in considering inability to pay, may also consider the parent/guardian’s future earning capacity. (Welf. & Inst. Code § 730.7, subd. (a).)
Prior to sentencing, victims should contact the probation department in their county and/or the district attorney’s office in their county and inform persons assigned to their case of their crime-related losses. The victim will need to provide the agency with documentation of their losses. The following agencies can assist:
Victim Witness Assistance Centers
The District Attorney’s Office in the county where the crime happened
The Probation Department in the county where the crime happened
The offender has the right to ask for a hearing to dispute the determination of the amount of restitution. (Pen. Code § 1202.4, subd. (f)(1).) Victims may be asked to submit documentation for their crime-related losses and/or testify. It is recommended victims keep copies of all the bills, receipts, estimates of expenses and any other documents and correspondence related to the crime. Victims can provide these copies to the District Attorney’s office to be used as evidence at the restitution hearing. Also, a victim should keep copies for their own records for future reference.
In those cases when the amount of loss cannot be determined at sentencing, the court shall order restitution with a provision that the amount is “to be determined.” As long as the court has jurisdiction over the offender, the court can amend the restitution order if the victim has additional losses after sentencing. The victim must contact the District Attorney’s Office to provide the updated information about those losses.
In any case in which an order may be entered, the offender, pursuant to Penal Code section 1202.4, subdivision (f)(5), is required to file a disclosure identifying all assets, income, and liabilities in which the defendant held an interest as of the date of the defendant’s arrest.
The court shall provide the victim in whose favor the order of restitution was entered with a certified copy of the restitution order and a copy of the defendant’s financial disclosure statement pursuant to Penal Code section 1214, subdivision (b). Victims can contact the clerk of the court directly or contact the Victim Witness Assistance Center in the county where the offender was sentenced.
Once the court orders an offender to pay restitution, victims will receive payment, but the method varies:
If the county is collecting:
Methods of collecting restitution payments vary from county to county. Victims should contact their local Victim Witness Assistance Center or District Attorney’s Office to find out what is needed to receive payment and to change their address.
If the offender is sent to prison, or if the offender is a juvenile sent to a state facility:
Victims should register with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services and request and submit a form 1707. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services will notify registered victims, who have completed a 1707 form, of an offender’s status and assist crime victims by collecting restitution from the offender. After January 2007, CDCR began garnishing 50%, subject to an administrative fee, of an inmate’s trust account every month to pay their restitution and other court-ordered obligations. Contact: 877-256-6877 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Division of Juvenile Justice (formerly California Youth Authority) can provide information to assist victims whose offenders are in DJJ custody. DJJ garnishes 50% of a juvenile offender’s trust account each month they are incarcerated, subject to an administrative fee. The money pays restitution and other court-ordered obligations.
Note: All DJJ facilities have closed as of July 1, 2023, per SB 823.
Making Payments: An offender should contact their probation or parole officer to determine the best method to make payments, so those payments are properly recorded.
CalVCB Collections: If the offender was previously incarcerated by CDCR, CalVCB utilizes the California Franchise Tax Board to garnish wages and bank accounts to collect unpaid fines and orders. Additionally, CalVCB places liens on inheritances to collect unpaid CalVCB restitution orders and fines.
CalVCB’s Ten Percent Rebate Program: In accordance with Government Code section 13963, CalVCB operates the Ten Percent Rebate Program, which provides counties with a 10 percent rebate on restitution fines remitted to the Restitution Fund within 45 days of the end of the month in which the funds are collected. If the county has submitted the fine money within the appropriate time frame, CalVCB sends the county a 10% rebate. The county must use this money towards funding restitution collection efforts pursuant to Government Code section 13963, subdivision (f).
When the location of a victim is unknown or there is some other cause for restitution money to remain unclaimed, the county may keep that money or return it to the Restitution Fund once that money has gone unclaimed for at least three years and proper notification processes have been followed per Government Code section 50050 – 50053. The three-year timeline is extended for infants and persons of unsound mind until one year after their disability ceases.