Everything You Need to Know About Restitution in Arizona

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Everything You Need to Know About Restitution in Arizona

Being convicted of a crime in Arizona can be costly. Depending on your sentence, you might have to pay fees and fines or even make restitution. These fines can be difficult to repay, especially if you are facing incarceration or probation. However, they do have to be paid—if you don’t pay restitution, you could be facing wage garnishment or a lien on your property. Here’s how paying restitution works in Arizona.

What Is Restitution? 

Restitution is a sum set by the court that is paid to the victim of a crime. For example, if you are convicted of robbery, a judge might require you to pay back the value of the stolen items as well as cover the costs of any damage you caused. 

Restitution can be awarded to compensate for:

  • Medical or dental expenses
  • Mental health counseling
  • Lost wages
  • Crime scene cleanup
  • Emergency relocation
  • Funeral costs

Restitution can be ordered at the time of sentencing or at a separate restitution hearing. It is usually assigned at the sentencing, however, a separate hearing may be necessary in complicated cases where there are multiple victims.

How Does Restitution Work in Arizona? 

All restitutions are paid to and managed by the county court in which the charges were filed and convicted. If you do not pay, the Arizona government can garnish your wages or your commissary account if you are serving time. They can also place a lien on any valuable property you own.

What Is a Restitution Lien?

The victims of a crime have the right to place either a pre-conviction lien or a restitution lien on a defendant’s property. However, they are not able to demand the money from those pieces of property right away, if at all. 

For example, a pre-conviction lien does not place a monetary value on personal property—it merely prevents ownership of that property from being transferred to another person during the trial process.

A restitution lien is meant to ensure that any payments are made on the restitution. If a defendant is paying what they can, then the lien cannot be enacted. If the defendant is paying nothing toward the restitution, and there is a restitution lien in place, the property could be sold if nonpayment continues.

Do You Have to Pay All the Restitution Owed?

Being convicted of a crime limits your employment opportunities, especially if there is a prison or jail sentence to serve. This can make it difficult to pay restitution, but you must pay as much as you are able to. However, if the amount you can pay is lower than the mandated sum, you cannot be forced to pay more.

When the probation or sentence on a conviction ends, if restitution has not been paid in full, a probation term may be started or extended by up to five years. After the five-year extension, if more money is still owed, it must be taken up in civil court. This means that the victim to whom restitution is being paid must sue the defendant in civil court for the remainder of the restitution. 

A Certified Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You Avoid Paying Restitution 

One of the best ways to get out of having to pay restitution is to avoid conviction. And to win your case, you need to give yourself the best possible chance with the best possible lawyer. Todd Coolidge has over 25 years of experience in the Arizona criminal justice system. His legal knowledge, litigation skills, and personal touch make him one of the best defense lawyers in the state. If you’re facing criminal charges in Arizona, contact us today to schedule a consultation.




Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (11/26/23). Photo by Vladimir Solomianyi on Unsplash.