Restitution in Minnesota - Direct Causation Required

Over the past few decades, the criminal justice system has endured a massive change in its treatment of alleged crime victims and offenders. Those accused of committing crimes have been subject to increasingly punitive outcomes, both in law and public opinion. This retributive justice approach has only very recently started to come under scrutiny, but most of the effects still weigh heavy on the criminal justice system. As punishments reached new, ever-expanding grounds, victim’s rights advocates sought new ways to remedy the aftermath and compensate victims.  As public opinion shifted toward concern for victims in criminal proceedings, state legislatures responded accordingly. The development of criminal restitution statutes best demonstrates this shift.

In general, restitution is a payment by a convicted offender to the victim. Victims have the right to request restitution after someone is convicted of a criminal charge. In order to determine whether to order restitution and the amount of restitution, a court may consider the defendant’s ability to pay and the loss sustained by the victim of the crime. A request for restitution may include, but is not limited to, out-of-pocket losses resulting from the crime, including medical costs, replacement of wages, and funeral expenses. The adoption of this policy by Minnesota’s legislature was guided by public policy considerations. Namely, restitution is intended to compensate victims for their loss by restoring them to their original financial conditions.

However, any restitution awarded must be due to the “direct causation” of the act in which a person was convicted. Direct causation, as applied in Minnesota, means something more than just having some factual relationship. It requires that any loss be the direct result of an act that ended in a criminal conviction. This means that you cannot be ordered to pay restitution for costs that were not the direct result of an action that ended in a criminal conviction.

For example, say you were charged with committing two separate crimes, theft and damage to property. After a court hearing, you are convicted of the theft but not the damage to property. This means you may be responsible to pay restitution for the theft but NOT the damage to property.  A victim would have to prove that the damage caused was directly caused by the theft in order to eligible for restitution. This is why it is incredibly important to find a Minnesota criminal defense attorney who will fight for you. Preventing a conviction on even one charge can end up saving you thousands of dollars in restitution payments.