If you have been accused of a criminal offense that included a monetary loss to a victim, such as theft or vandalism, you may be wondering (or hoping) that paying the victim back will keep you out of jail. This may, or may not, actually be the case. In order to understand why you need to have a better understanding of how the criminal justice system operates, specifically with regard to the issue of restitution to a victim.
Many criminal offenses include a victim. Sometimes the victim is actually injured during the commission of the crime whereas in other crimes the victim suffers only monetary damages. For example, if you commit the crime of shoplifting, the victim of the crime is the store from which you stole the items in question. The store suffered monetary losses in an amount equal to the value of the items stolen. If you have been charged with shoplifting, or another crime in which the victim suffered monetary losses, you may be hopeful that simply paying back the amount the victim suffered in damages will be the end of the problem. Not necessarily so.
First, if the victim has already contacted the police and you have already been arrested or given a summons indicating you have been charged with a crime, the State of Nebraska is now involved. Contrary to what many people believe, the victim of any crime does not make the decision to prosecute or not. The State of Nebraska makes that decision. Typically, the prosecuting attorney will consult with the victim to get the victim’s point of view and ask what the victim wants to happen before deciding how to proceed; however, ultimately, the prosecuting attorney decides whether to move forward with the prosecution or not.
If you are willing and able to pay restitution (the amount the victim suffered in damages) it could still help you though in one of several ways. If the offense was relatively minor, such as shoplifting or vandalism, you could qualify for a diversion program that would require the payment of restitution as one of the terms. If diversion is not an option, paying damages can still be used as a bargaining chip during plea agreement negotiations. Obviously both the victim and the State want to see the damages paid in full. If you are able to do that right away it might be a significant point in your favor and help to prevent a jail sentence.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense that involves monetary damages in Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
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