RD43 - SJR 399 - Restitution

Executive Summary:
The Family Violence Subcommittee held ten (10) focus groups randomly selected from across the Commonwealth involving over sixty (60) direct service providers as a critical aspect of the study activities. The focus groups yielded valuable information regarding the current system of restitution at all levels of court. The following are recommendations resulting from the focus groups, general research and interviews conducted in conjunction with the study.

Recommendation 1

The Supreme Court, working with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund and others, shall: (i) develop a central repository of restitution information; (ii) clarify the local agencies that may be able to collect restitution; and, (iii) clarify the methods used to enforce the collection of restitution.

There is no way of knowing how much restitution has been ordered or collected in Virginia because collection of such information is not required. In order to better assess how to improve Virginia’s system of restitution, the total amount of money ordered and collected is necessary. Additionally, the Virginia Code is vague as to who may collect restitution within a locality. As a result, each of the focus groups reported that restitution is collected differently, often with differences between the particular courts within one locality. However, each locality reported “contentment” with their current system of restitution (specifically as to who was responsible for the collection of restitution, not enforcement of the order). Even so, some localities were unaware of all the methods available within the Code to aid in the enforcement of restitution orders. Hence, sweeping changes in the ordering and collection of restitution at this point in time may not be fiscally responsible or wise in terms of the effect those changes could have on the localities participating in the focus groups or the hundreds of remaining localities across the Commonwealth.

Recommendation 2

Mandate that judges shall order restitution at the time of sentencing.

This recommendation will be considered with Recommendation 1 once the Supreme Court also reviews a uniform order of restitution for the courts.