Debt Collection from Criminal Offenders

Arrested man in handcuffs holding money

The Justice Department is implementing new ways to collect and track restitution payments from criminal offenders. This is no small task, as the below cited article indicates that criminal defendants owe about $17 Billion in restitution.

Every lawyer knows that obtaining a conviction or judgment against a defendant, whether involving a civil or criminal case, is only one part of the justice process. Actually collecting your judgment or getting restitution restored to the victim of a crime is quite a larger feat, one that frequently isn’t discussed. I once had another attorney tell me, “The collectibility of the Debtor is irrelevant.” This statement is quite comical, because it’s precisely relevant. Why spend thousands of dollars suing someone from whom you can never collect your clients money? It’s counterproductive and could leave your client in a worse financial spot than they are if they’d chosen not to pursue a lawsuit. And the worst argument to be made is that it’s “the principle of the matter” because many times it simply equates to a greater financial burden on the already injured party and a further burden on the court system.

The criminal system is even more frustrating for the process because how would you ever collect against someone who’s spending months or years – or even decades – in jail? How do you make the victim whole? It’s virtually impossible. The tracking system discussed in this article is at least a step in the right direction, which allows better ease of tracking for payments once criminals are earning wages in our society after being released. It begs the question of what accomplishes justice for the victim more, imprisoning the criminal or allowing him to work, repay his debt to his victim, making them financially whole. Obviously this wouldn’t work for violent crimes, but perhaps might be debateable for those in jail for nonviolent criminal acts. That’s a blog post for a different day! Check out the article though – good stuff for anyone seeking restitution!

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