Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol increases your risk of being involved in an accident, so its no surprise 29 percent of auto crash fatalities involve someone who had been drinking. In situations where DUI offenders cause accidents, the court will often require convicted defendants to pay restitution to victims. Here are three things the judge will look at to determine whether to order restitution and the amount to be paid.
Your Ability to Pay
Usually one of the first considerations is whether you have the means and/or ability to pay any restitution ordered. The court will look at a variety of factors, including the number of damages the victim suffered, your current employment status, and any future income you may receive.
The determinants typically inform each other, so while one factor may indicate you should be ordered to pay restitution, another factor may make the court decide not to ask you to pay. For instance, if the victim suffers $20,000 in damages but you are unemployed, have no assets, and are unlikely to obtain any income in the future. In this case, the court may forego ordering restitution, even though it is warranted because you can't pay.
Courts typically require defendants to undergo a financial review to determine their ability to pay. It's important to be honest when reporting income as misrepresenting your earnings can result in charges of perjury and more legal problems. However, don't be shy about asking your attorney for ideas on presenting your financial situation in a way that's beneficial for you. Some of your income may be exempt from consideration or you may have special circumstances that impact your ability to pay. Use the resources available to your advantage.
Victim Damages and Compensation
The number of damages the victims suffers will also play a big part in whether you'll be ordered to pay restitution. The more damages and losses the victims suffer, the more likely the court will require you to repay the victim to make the person(s) whole again.
However, the amount you are required to pay may be reduced in part or in whole by any compensation the victim receives from other sources. If you have insurance and your provider pays part of the victim's damages, the court may only order you to pay any amount not covered by the insurance check. This is to prevent the victim from double-dipping and obtain more money they are entitled to.
Be aware, though, you may be required to repay any third-party contributions. For example, many states have Victims Compensation Funds (VCF) that pay victims of crimes for their damages and losses when defendants are unable to pay. If the victim receives money from a VCF, the court may order you to repay the fund or the VCF may come after you directly for reimbursement.
It's important to check your state laws to determine how third-party payments are handled so you can better accurately predict how much you may have to pay out of pocket to cover any restitution ordered.
Regardless of the number of damages and losses the victim sustains or whether you can afford it, the court may be required by law to order you to pay restitution because that's one of the penalties associated with DUIs. Unfortunately, in this case, there isn't much you can do to avoid being hit with a restitution bill.
However, it may be possible to minimize the amount you have to pay by challenging the victim's compensation claims. If the victim says he or she suffered $10,000 in property damage, you could challenge that assessment and get the amount reduced by proving the damage sustained was less than claimed.
When dealing with a DUI charge, it's essential you get the assistance of a DUI lawyer who can help you navigate these issues and resolve the case in a way that's favorable for you. For more information about this issue, contact a local lawyer.