I am often asked about how a court determines the amount of restitution owed in a criminal case.  To begin with, restitution is the amount of money a court deems sufficient to compensate a victim for his or her losses caused by a defendant.
A crime victim has a right to restitution.  However, restitution only includes losses that can be easily ascertained and are a direct result of a defendant’s conduct.  Further, the prosecutor must prove these losses by a preponderance of the evidence.  Put simply, a preponderance of the evidence is satisfied if there is at least a 50% chance that the proposition is true.
Of importance is the fact that the Michigan Rules of Evidence do not apply to restitution hearings.  Therefore, hearsay is admissible, and expert testimony is not governed by the Michigan Rules of Evidence.
Recently, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided a case involving restitution in a criminal case – People v. Matzke.  In that case, a victim owned a separator as part of his business, and caught the defendant attempting to transport his separator from the property and tried to stop him.  Eventually, the police arrived and arrested the defendant for larceny of property worth $1,000.00 or more but less than $20,000.00.  Defendant was ordered to pay $4,580 in restitution for damages incurred as a result of his attempts to transport the separator.
At the restitution hearing, the victim and the victim’s grandson testified regarding the condition of the separator before the crime and the damage incurred as a result of the crime.  The victim also submitted photographs of the damage, along with a company’s estimate of repairing costs.  The defendant did not submit any evidence.  The Court found that a preponderance of the evidence supported the victim’s loss of $4,580.00 as a result of defendant’s conduct.
Should you have any questions regarding restitution in your criminal case, please contact us here.

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