When a shooting or serious assault occurs, the victim is often left with significant medical debt, as well as time lost from work. In some cases, the physical injuries are permanent. For example, a victim who is shot in the spine may become paraplegic or quadriplegic.
Then of course, there is pain and suffering. The mental trauma victims experience is significant. For some, their lives will never be the same. Some victims develop crippling anxiety or depression. It’s not uncommon for the victim of a vicious assault to develop such severe anxiety that they have difficulty even leaving their home.
The long-term effects of crimes like shootings and assaults are quite serious. The financial ramifications can be devastating. So what are a crime victim’s rights to financial recovery after a crime occurs in Pennsylvania or New Jersey?
In this article, our crime victim injury lawyers discuss the various avenues to financial recovery after a crime occurs.
Shootings & Assaults – Criminal Cases & Restitution
After a shooting or serious assault occurs, a criminal investigation will begin. Nine times out of ten, a criminal prosecution will follow. This involves multiple hearings and potentially, a trial.
In most cases, the victim will be able to make a claim for restitution, which is usually limited to out of pocket expenses such as medical bills, lost wages and other out of pocket expenses.
In Pennsylvania, Section 1106 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes sets out the various rules and procedures for restitution claims in a criminal case. Restitution claims are presented by the district attorney’s office. Click below for the full text of PA’s restitution law in criminal cases.
In New Jersey, the restitution law can be found at Section 2C:43-3 of the New Jersey Crimes Code, which is included below. The law allows a judge to enter a restitution amount up to double of what the victim actually lost. Click here for a New Jersey crime victim restitution summary from the Probation Services Office of the NJ courts (dated July 2015).
In shooting or serious assault cases, the reality is that the victim often sees very little by way of restitution. That’s because the criminal perpetrator rarely has the ability to pay. Oftentimes, the amount a victim receives will be nominal. A victim may see a few hundred dollars a year, and the checks are often sporadic. For example, a crime victim in a shooting case has a total of $10,000 of medical bills. The court enters an order for restitution to the victim in that amount. The perpetrator goes to prison for 20 years. Each month, the victim receives a check for $5.00, because the perpetrator earn 50 cents an hour working in the prison’s kitchen. At that rate, it would take 10 years to receive $600.
Crime Victims’ Rights in Civil Cases
What many crime victims don’t know is that they may be able to receive financial compensation through a civil lawsuit. Oftentimes when a crime occurs in a public setting, another party may be held liable.
Our lawyers recently filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of the parents of Karlie Hall, a college freshman who was assaulted and murdered in her dorm room. The lawsuit was filed in January 2017 against the college and a fraternity. Read the news release about this crime victim injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania (Hall v. Millersville University et al.).
To discuss a crime victim injury case, please contact our lawyers. We have experience handling shooting and assault cases for victims and their families. PA 215.399.9255 | NJ 609.223.8900 | Toll-Free 800.220.7600
DISCLAIMER: This website does not create any attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice. It is crucial to speak to a qualified lawyer prior to making any decision about your case. Read full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.
18 Pa C.S. § 1106. Restitution for injuries to person or property. (current as of March 2017)
(a) General rule.–Upon conviction for any crime wherein property has been stolen, converted or otherwise unlawfully obtained, or its value substantially decreased as a direct result of the crime, or wherein the victim suffered personal injury directly resulting from the crime, the offender shall be sentenced to make restitution in addition to the punishment prescribed therefor.
(b) Condition of probation or parole.–Whenever restitution has been ordered pursuant to subsection (a) and the offender has been placed on probation or parole, his compliance with such order may be made a condition of such probation or parole.
(c) Mandatory restitution.–
(1) The court shall order full restitution:
(i) Regardless of the current financial resources of the defendant, so as to provide the victim with the fullest compensation for the loss. The court shall not reduce a restitution award by any amount that the victim has received from the Crime Victim’s Compensation Board or other governmental agency but shall order the defendant to pay any restitution ordered for loss previously compensated by the board to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund or other designated account when the claim involves a government agency in addition to or in place of the board. The court shall not reduce a restitution award by any amount that the victim has received from an insurance company but shall order the defendant to pay any restitution ordered for loss previously compensated by an insurance company to the insurance company.
(ii) If restitution to more than one person is set at the same time, the court shall set priorities of payment. However, when establishing priorities, the court shall order payment in the following order:
(A) The victim.
(B) The Crime Victim’s Compensation Board.
(C) Any other government agency which has provided reimbursement to the victim as a result of the defendant’s criminal conduct.
(D) Any insurance company which has provided reimbursement to the victim as a result of the defendant’s criminal conduct.
(2) At the time of sentencing the court shall specify the amount and method of restitution. In determining the amount and method of restitution, the court:
(i) Shall consider the extent of injury suffered by the victim, the victim’s request for restitution as presented to the district attorney in accordance with paragraph (4) and such other matters as it deems appropriate.
(ii) May order restitution in a lump sum, by monthly installments or according to such other schedule as it deems just.
(iii) Shall not order incarceration of a defendant for failure to pay restitution if the failure results from the offender’s inability to pay.
(iv) Shall consider any other preexisting orders imposed on the defendant, including, but not limited to, orders imposed under this title or any other title.
(v) (Deleted by amendment).
(3) The court may, at any time or upon the recommendation of the district attorney that is based on information received from the victim and the probation section of the county or other agent designated by the county commissioners of the county with the approval of the president judge to collect restitution, alter or amend any order of restitution made pursuant to paragraph (2), provided, however, that the court states its reasons and conclusions as a matter of record for any change or amendment to any previous order.
(4) (i) It shall be the responsibility of the district attorneys of the respective counties to make a recommendation to the court at or prior to the time of sentencing as to the amount of restitution to be ordered. This recommendation shall be based upon information solicited by the district attorney and received from the victim.
(ii) Where the district attorney has solicited information from the victims as provided in subparagraph (i) and has received no response, the district attorney shall, based on other available information, make a recommendation to the court for restitution.
(iii) The district attorney may, as appropriate, recommend to the court that the restitution order be altered or amended as provided in paragraph (3).
(d) Limitations on district justices.–Restitution ordered by a magisterial district judge shall be limited to the return of the actual property or its undisputed dollar amount or, where the claim for restitution does not exceed the civil jurisdictional limit specified in 42 Pa.C.S. § 1515(a)(3) (relating to jurisdiction) and is disputed as to amount, the magisterial district judge shall determine and order the dollar amount of restitution to be made.
(e) Restitution payments and records.–Restitution, when ordered by a judge, shall be made by the offender to the probation section of the county in which he was convicted or to another agent designated by the county commissioners with the approval of the president judge of the county to collect restitution according to the order of the court or, when ordered by a magisterial district judge, shall be made to the magisterial district judge. The probation section or other agent designated by the county commissioners of the county with the approval of the president judge to collect restitution and the magisterial district judge shall maintain records of the restitution order and its satisfaction and shall forward to the victim the property or payments made pursuant to the restitution order.
(f) Noncompliance with restitution order.–Whenever the offender shall fail to make restitution as provided in the order of a judge, the probation section or other agent designated by the county commissioners of the county with the approval of the president judge to collect restitution shall notify the court within 20 days of such failure. Whenever the offender shall fail to make restitution within 20 days to a magisterial district judge, as ordered, the magisterial district judge shall declare the offender in contempt and forward the case to the court of common pleas. Upon such notice of failure to make restitution, or upon receipt of the contempt decision from a magisterial district judge, the court shall order a hearing to determine if the offender is in contempt of court or has violated his probation or parole.
(g) Preservation of private remedies.–No judgment or order of restitution shall debar the owner of the property or the victim who sustained personal injury, by appropriate action, to recover from the offender as otherwise provided by law, provided that any civil award shall be reduced by the amount paid under the criminal judgment.
(h) Definitions [omitted]
New Jersey Criminal Code 2C § 43-3 (current as of March 2017)
A person who has been convicted of an offense may be sentenced to pay a fine, to make restitution, or both, such fine not to exceed:
a. (1) $200,000.00 when the conviction is of a crime of the first degree;
(2) $150,000.00 when the conviction is of a crime of the second degree;
b.(1) $15,000.00 when the conviction is of a crime of the third degree;
(2) $10,000.00 when the conviction is of a crime of the fourth degree;
c. $1,000.00, when the conviction is of a disorderly persons offense;
d. $500.00, when the conviction is of a petty disorderly persons offense;
e. Any higher amount equal to double the pecuniary gain to the offender or loss to the victim caused by the conduct constituting the offense by the offender. In such case the court shall make a finding as to the amount of the gain or loss, and if the record does not contain sufficient evidence to support such a finding the court may conduct a hearing upon the issue. For purposes of this section the term “gain” means the amount of money or the value of property derived by the offender and “loss” means the amount of value separated from the victim or the amount of any payment owed to the victim and avoided or evaded and includes any reasonable and necessary expense incurred by the owner in recovering or replacing lost, stolen or damaged property, or recovering any payment avoided or evaded, and, with respect to property of a research facility, includes the cost of repeating an interrupted or invalidated experiment or loss of profits. The term “victim” shall mean a person who suffers a personal physical or psychological injury or death or incurs loss of or injury to personal or real property as a result of a crime committed against that person, or in the case of a homicide, the nearest relative of the victim. The terms “gain” and “loss” shall also mean, where appropriate, the amount of any tax, fee, penalty and interest avoided, evaded, or otherwise unpaid or improperly retained or disposed of;
f. Any higher amount specifically authorized by another section of this code or any other statute;
g. Up to twice the amounts authorized in subsection a., b., c. or d. of this section, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction of any tax offense defined in Title 54 of the Revised Statutes or Title 54A of the New Jersey Statutes, as amended and supplemented, or of any offense defined in chapter 20 or 21 of this code;
h. In the case of violations of chapter 35, any higher amount equal to three times the street value of the controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog. The street value for purposes of this section shall be determined pursuant to subsection e. of N.J.S.2C:44-2.
The restitution ordered paid to the victim shall not exceed the victim’s loss, except that in any case involving the failure to pay any State tax, the amount of restitution to the State shall be the full amount of the tax avoided or evaded, including full civil penalties and interest as provided by law. In any case where the victim of the offense is any department or division of State government, the court shall order restitution to the victim. Any restitution imposed on a person shall be in addition to any fine which may be imposed pursuant to this section.