If you are involved in a DUI accident, not only do you have to worry about the regular penalties facing a DUI suspect, you have to worry about paying for all of the damage that was done. The law is very one-sided on this topic; and it is not in the favor of the suspected DUI driver.
If you are able to settle your case with the prosecution, no matter how good the deal is, "restitution" is sure to be part of the plea bargain. "Restitution" is paying back for the damage that was done to the victim or victims. Restitution is the amount necessary to pay for the victim's economic loss.
If you have your own insurance, that will be helpful. However, the court could order you to pay more than what your insurance covers. Your insurance company could settle the claim with the victim, and the Judge could still order you to pay more. It is very important that the issue of restitution be considered in any DUI case, and in any settlement of a DUI case.
Even if the victim has their own insurance, that does not stop the Judge from ordering you to pay for the full economic loss of the victim.
What is a victim's economic loss? Medical bills, repair or replacement of a car, property damage, loss of income, time off work, rental car, attorneys’ fees … and the list goes on. In a restitution situation, the court will not deal with pain and suffering... but all tangible losses can be addressed by the Judge.
The decisions about how much restitution is owed will be up to the Judge, not a jury. The Judge can consider anything he or she wants to in deciding what restitution is due. The Judge could listen to the victim’s statements, and make a decision on that statement alone. A Judge will normally review paperwork related to the case, and take testimony from the victim. However, the burden is really on the defendant to prove what the real costs should be.
Once the Judge decides what the restitution amount is going to be, a defendant is ordered to pay it. Weather the defendant can or can’t pay it is not considered in the Judge’s deciding what needs to be paid. The restitution order will follow the defendant throughout probation and the Judge can take steps to make sure the restitution is being paid. A Judge can even order a defendant to get a job to pay the restitution, or can garnish their wages. If at the end of probation the full amount is not paid, it can be converted into a civil judgment that will continue to follow a defendant for years and years. Even a bankruptcy will not make a restitution order go away.
The entire area of restitution is very one-sided. This means that you must be very careful in entering into any type of plea bargain.
Additionally, your attorney must be prepared to defend you, and fight the victim and prosecutor on how much restitution is really appropriate. Often times, victims think that they have won the lottery because they were the victim of a DUI accident. That is not the case, and reasonable restitution amounts can be set with proper preparation and a skilled DUI defense attorney.
Of course, every DUI case is different...and you should consult an experienced DUI defense attorney in your area with questions regarding your specific case. It is always in your best interest to have a good DUI attorney to represent you when you have been arrested for a DUI.From the author: Mark Rosenfeld: Los Angeles DUI Defense Attorney