As I am working on a few client's cases, I've come to the realization that, much like a large portion of criminal defense practice, your average first-time offender (and even some folks who have been through the system before) has no idea what a restitution hearing, let alone the term "restitution" itself, actually means and encompasses.
Restitution is any fee that is ordered payable from a criminal defendant to an alleged victim, due to the loss suffered as a result of the defendant's actions. Under Title 22, Section 991f of the Oklahoma Statutes,"restitution" is defined as:
"...the sum to be paid by the defendant to the victim of the criminal act to compensate that victim for up to three times the amount of the economic loss suffered as a direct result of the criminal act of the defendant.
One of the most troubling aspects of the definition is that the prosecution is authorized by statute to seek up to three times the amount of the economic loss suffered.
However, even though that aspect is troubling for many defendants, the authorization to seek triplicate damages has to be read in conjunction with the fact that the economic loss which the prosecution may take into account is limited to the loss suffered as a direct result of the criminal act of the defendant.
While there is often times some saving grace in the fact that the loss alleged must be suffered as a direct result of the criminal act of the defendant, there is even more potential mitigation offered by Oklahoma's definition for economic loss:
"Economic loss" means actual financial detriment suffered by the victim consisting of medical expenses actually incurred, damage to or loss of real and personal property and any other out-of-pocket expenses, including loss of earnings, reasonably incurred as the direct result of the criminal act of the defendant. No other elements of damage shall be included as an economic loss...
Moreover, the leading case regarding restitution calculations in Oklahoma, Logsdon v. State, requires "that restitution may be ordered only to the extent that the damage to the victim is determined with "reasonable certainty"." As such, the alleged restitution amount must be calculated as more than simply an approximation, guess, or mere estimate.
Thus, a criminal defendant is entitled to a hearing at which time the prosecution would have to present proof of the actual loss of the victim. Most times, holding the prosecution to their burden of production can be the difference between paying additional tens of thousands of dollars to the alleged victim for loss that he or she may not be able to actually prove.
At the end of the day though, the most troubling issue with the Oklahoma laws dealing with restitution is that, in some circumstances, the prosecution can request, and the court can order, a criminal defendant to pay back three times the amount of the actual out-of-pocket expenses/losses suffered by the alleged victim.
Consequently, it is imperative that a defendant faced with any criminal charges which allege economic loss hire an Oklahoma criminal defense lawyer who is well-versed in the laws relating to restitution. Otherwise, he or she may end up paying much more than actually required by law.
If you or a loved one is currently facing a white collar theft or embezzlement charge in Oklahoma, or any other crime where economic loss is alleged, contact The Law Offices of Adam R. Banner, P.C. and retain an attorney who is ready and willing to fight your fight for you.
To contact us, either click here and fill out our free case evaluation form or call 405.778.4800 today.