Negotiating Plea Deals

Why DUI Restitution Can Drive You Crazy

by Flenn Lane

If you are convicted of a driving under the influence (DUI) accident that caused injury or property damage, you will be required to compensate the victim for their losses. This is understandable since nobody should suffer due to another person's negligence. The problem is that the determination of DUI restitution is usually a lopsided affair, as the four points below will show:

Your Coverage May Not Be Enough

Your insurance coverage isn't a factor in calculating the amount you are supposed to give the victim of your crime. What matters is the damages experienced by the victim, which includes car damages, medical bills, the cost of rental cars, and other losses (excluding pain and suffering) experienced by the victim. Therefore, you may be slapped with a $500,000 restitution bill even if your coverage limit is $250,000.

The Decision Is Entirely Up to the Judge

Another worrying thing about this issue of DUI restitution is that it is not determined by a jury, it is entirely up to the judge. For example, the judge's personal feelings can easily determine how much you are required to pay. This contrasts with a jury's decision, where one person's feelings may not determine the whole outcome of a case.

The Judge Doesn't Have to Listen to You

Another thing with restitution is that the judge isn't obligated to listen to your side of the story or review evidence from you before reaching a decision. The judge can just review the case files, listen to the victim's testimony, and reach a decision. As you can guess, this is more likely to lead to a biased determination than if the judge was obligated to consider both of your testimony and evidence.

It Might Matter Whether You Can't Pay

In some states, judges are required to come up with restitution amounts that don't consider the defendants' ability to pay them. This means you may be ordered to pay millions of dollars even if you earn minimum wage. Your assets may be seized and your wages may be garnished to pay the victim their restitution. What is more, the restitution order can be set up to follow you for many years after the conviction. Even those who declare bankruptcy are still stuck with their restitution orders.

As you can see, restitution is a serious issue that can hound you even for the remainder of your life. Fortunately, you only pay restitution if you are found guilty of the crime. Get an experienced lawyer to defend your DUI charges and minimize your chances of losing the case and having to pay a gigantic restitution.