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Restitution: Promoting Early Payment

Successful collections programs work to maximize collections at the front end of the process, especially at the time of sentencing. This basic understanding should be incorporated into agency mission and policy.


Defendants may be motivated to pay at sentencing, rather than through a longer payment plan, to avoid fully disclosing their finances or paying an extra administrative fee as part of the payment plan process. 

Create the expectation.

Courts must establish an expectation among the criminal justice community, including the defense bar, that payment will be expected at sentencing. Michigan's required components (Components 2 + 3) of court collections programs provide details about communicating this expectation. Michigan also provides a judicial training video that illustrates how to communicate this expectation to pay at sentencing.

Statutory tools.

Courts may have other statutory tools to promote early payment. Many states allow for bail or bond funds to be applied to the payment of fines, fees, and restitution. The bond form itself may include notice to the defendant that the money deposited may be used to pay restitution. In some states, bond funds from one case may be applied to debt in another criminal case against the same defendant.

Some states, including Montana and Oregon, give courts statutory authority to order a person being sentenced to probation to "sell any assets of the probationer as specifically ordered by the court in order to pay restitution."

Pretrial freezing of assets.

For some defendants, especially those involved in large scale fraud, it is important to secure assets as early as possible. Five states have adopted legislation allowing the preconviction freezing of assets. California's bench guide addresses this process.

Similarly, the Florida Attorney General's Office used provisions in its consumer protection law to freeze assets in a Ponzi scheme case. They posted the court documents online.

This toolkit was produced by the National Center for Victims of Crime under cooperative agreement 2009-SZ-B9-K006, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this document are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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