Facing criminal charges in Texas can be incredibly expensive. You may have to pay for an attorney, as well as for court fees, even if you avoid conviction. If you wind up convicted, there could be even more expenses. A conviction could result in thousands of dollars in fines and fees depending on the criminal charges you face.
There is yet another potential expense that many people don’t consider when facing criminal charges in Texas. If the charges stem from a situation that left a victim with either injuries or property damage, the courts could order you to pay restitution to the victim. Depending on the specifics of the case, that restitution could be thousands of dollars.
Understanding when and how judges order restitution in Texas criminal cases should help shape your criminal defense strategy. Avoiding a conviction and sentencing can help you minimize the costs of your charges.
Accepting a plea deal won’t likely protect you from restitution
Many times, a person accused of a crime will accept a plea deal as a means of keeping their time in court and expenses as low as possible. People associate plea bargains with reduced penalties, but pleading guilty can mean facing more penalties, not fewer.
Although that seems like a reasonable approach on the surface, it could leave the individual vulnerable. Pleading guilty to a crime with a victim could mean that in addition to the reduced penalties agreed upon in your plea bargain, you will have to pay restitution for property damage or injuries to the victim.
In fact, even if the judge doesn’t order restitution, a guilty plea in the criminal case associated with substantial property damage or personal injury will likely open the doorway to a lawsuit from the victim. Your guilty plea could wind up being evidence against you in that secondary lawsuit.
The judge has a lot of discretion in handling restitution
It is common for victims to put together a statement that explains how a criminal offense affected their lives. From outlining lost wages and the expense of medical care required after an assault or drunk driving collision to itemizing the costs and stressors involved in repairing substantial property damage, victims can make a strong impression on the judge that could impact you during sentencing.
Texas judges can order reasonable restitution based on the impact of the offense on the victim. Some judges will be literal and order the exact amount claimed by the victim, while others may round up and be more generous in how they handle restitution.
The potential risk for financial restitution should be a consideration in the development of any strategy for a criminal offense that allegedly resulted in property damage or injury to someone else in Texas.