Bill Would Ensure Victims Of Crime Collect Restitution
New legislation would make sure court-ordered fines, fees and restitution will be properly allocated to victims of crime in every county throughout the commonwealth.
State Rep. Dom Costa (D-Allegheny) introduced House Bill 1070, which would require each of the 67 counties to establish a unit dedicated to the collection of these court-imposed obligations, unless the county chooses to outsource collections.
According to Costa, the bill ensures that when a court orders restitution to a victim, the county is required to have something in place make sure the order is followed. Then, there needs to be verification that the victim received that money.
“All of the counties don’t have anything in place or they’re not following up on it. So, in fairness to our victims, it’s only fair that we … assure that something’s in place to ensure that the victims get the appropriate restitution ordered by the courts, because they’re (the counties) dropping the ball,” said Costa.
Costa says often in his former career as a police officer, there would be a guilty plea and a court would order restitution to the victims of a crime. Seven months or even a year later, those same victims would call and say that they haven’t received anything.
Even today he receives calls from police officers who say they’ve been contacted by victims who are wondering where their money is and why haven’t they received it yet.
“There was no one really putting the finger on anyone to say, ‘This is your job,’ it was questionable whose job it was. So we’re clarifying whose job it is to collect it now,” said Costa.
Costa says he’s surprised that counties aren’t more proactive about this issue, since they reap benefits from the money as well.
“Not only are the victims not getting restitution, but some of the counties aren’t getting restitution, so it’s really to their benefit to pursue this money, these monies that are owed and ordered by the court,” he said.
The bill specifies that counties must provide a compilation of statistics on these collections so the county can verify that they are in compliance with the law.
Costa says hundreds of millions of dollars have gone uncollected.
“Any of that money can be brought in would offset cost that we taxpayers are all forking out to begin with. So we can’t have a judge order the cost to be paid then nobody follow up on it,” said Costa.
The cost of running the collections unit would fall to the counties.
The bill has passed the house and is now in the Senate judiciary committee.
“Any money that’s not collected is lost and the taxpayers are the losers there. This would hopefully … lower the cost that the taxpayers have to pay because we are now recycling that money and using it again,” said Costa.