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7/11/2013 Legislation OKd to prioritize restitution payments
STATE HOUSE – In criminal law, restitution is a regular feature in the sentencing of criminal defendants. If a victim can be identified, a judge will order the defendant to make restitution to that victim – for instance, if a defendant is convicted of stealing a wireless communication device, the defendant may be sentenced to reimburse the victim for the value of that device.

“Restitution is designed to attempt to make the victim of a crime whole, as much as possible,” said Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown). “That is and should always be the priority in ordering defendants to make restitution. There is no other more important use for any payments made by a defendant to a restitution account.”

To ensure that victims come first in this regard, Representative Craven introduced, the General Assembly has passed and the governor has signed into law legislation to guarantee that “upon determination of restitution, court ordered restitution payments shall be paid first to persons injured until such time as the court’s restitution is fully satisfied.”

Only after the victim receives full restitution ordered by the court can any payments made to a restitution account be used for court costs, fines, fees and assessment related to prosecution of any criminal case.

“The basic purpose of restitution is to attempt to achieve fairness for the victim of the crime, not to cover court costs or enrich the judicial system,” said Representative Craven. “While current state law establishes priorities for the use of restitution payments, it does not categorize those priorities. Enactment of my legislation will absolutely, explicitly guarantee that it is the victim, the injured party, first and foremost, who receives compensation. Then, and only then, should any restitution payments accrue to the court.”

The Craven bill, (2013-H5668), takes immediate effect. It was co-sponsored by House Majority Leader Rep. Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), Rep. J. Patrick O’Neill (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket), Rep. John J. Lombardi (D-Dist. 8, Providence) and Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).

Also signed into law was the companion Senate bill, (2013-S0490), introduced by Sen. Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick).

For more information, contact:
Randall T. Szyba, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2457