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National Crime Victim Law Institute

Clarifying the Purpose of Restitution

July 03, 2014

Contemporary criminal restitution is what is known as sui generis (i.e., legally unique), serving both civil and criminal law goals. It serves the remedial purpose of compelling offenders to compensate victims for their losses and it serves the penological purposes of deterrence, rehabilitation, and accountability. Modern restitution laws arose after decades of legislative reform to ensure that the criminal justice system focuses not only on the punishment the state should exact on criminals but also on the harm suffered by individual victims. Despite its unique nature and historical roots, defendants are beginning to argue that restitution requires a jury determination. If defendants prevail victims and their recovery needs would be put on trial. The latest of these attacks is in the Oregon case of State v. Smith. Fortunately, the Oregon Department of Justice notified NCVLI of this case and we were able to submit an amicus curiae brief to the Oregon Court of Appeals. The case is pending. If this issue is percolating in your jurisdiction please let us know so that together we can protect victims’ rights!