NICOLE R. CASTRONOVO
Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver, PC
An unfortunate reality of police work is that many law enforcement officers will find themselves the victims of a crime at some point in their careers. I have represented officers who have been critically injured by intoxicated drivers, who have been run over by fleeing vehicles or who have been assaulted by a suspect during apprehension. If you find yourself in such a situation, it is important that you know your rights. Broadly speaking, they include: (1) representation by counsel for any interviews you may be requested to participate in after a critical incident; (2) representation for any civil suit that could arise out of the incident; and (3) representation for any restitution hearing that arises out of criminal charges against the defendant who assaulted you. This article will focus on the right you may have to restitution if you are the victim of a crime.
Who Can Get Restitution?
The direct victim of a crime who has suffered economic loss as a result of that crime may receive restitution (Penal Code § 1202.4[a]). However, the indirect victims of a crime, such as a spouse, may also be eligible to receive restitution (Santos v. Brown  238 CA4th 398, 404).
Can I Still File a Civil Suit If I am Awarded Restitution?
A common question is whether receiving a criminal restitution award will prevent you from filing a civil lawsuit against the person who harmed you. It does not. A victim of a crime can receive an award of criminal restitution and still file a successful lawsuit in some circumstances. Vice versa, the settlement of a civil lawsuit does not waive a victim’s right to restitution (People v. Clifton  172 CA3d 1165, 1168). In other words, a crime victim may have multiple avenues to seek recovery for their damages.
When Can You Receive Restitution?
Restitution is a monetary award to the victim of a crime. In order to receive restitution, the defendant who harmed you must either enter a plea to the charges against them or be convicted of the crime at trial. Once the defendant has pled or been convicted, the court should set a hearing for criminal restitution. It is important that you inform the prosecutor or victim advocate who is assigned to your case that you will be seeking restitution. If you hire an attorney to help you through this process, it is important that you find someone who is knowledgeable in restitution, as this is a niche area of the law.
What Can You Be Awarded?
Restitution covers a wide swath of economic damages under Penal Code § 1202.4(f). This could include reimbursement for past and future wage loss, counseling and property damage (such as a ruined uniform or a totaled car), along with past and future medical bills. For immediate family members of a victim, such as the spouse or child, restitution could include the loss of future economic support (People v. Giordano  42 CA4th 644, 657). Additionally, the court may also award 10% interest on the amount of restitution (from the date of loss or date of sentencing) owed to the victim under Penal Code § 1202.4(f)(3)(G).
However, restitution has its limits. Most significantly, it does not cover pain and suffering except under narrow exceptions such as for the victims of child molestation (Penal Code § 1202.4[f][F]). If you have been involved in an incident where you have experienced pain and suffering and desire monetary compensation for those noneconomic damages, you will want to consult with a personal injury attorney to explore pursuing a civil lawsuit.
What Evidence Do You Need?
Sometimes, law enforcement officers may not have documents to support every loss that has been incurred. For example, you may not have a receipt for the uniform or holster you bought years ago. Under the law, a victim can provide estimates for their damages (People v. Goulart  224 Cal.App.3d 71, 82-83). However, a court will be more likely to award damages where the victim can provide receipts or bills evidencing the claimed loss.
What Happens If You Are Awarded Restitution?
If you are awarded restitution by court order, it will be unlikely that you will receive a lump sum from the defendant. However, the court may order the defendant to make payments to you during the term of their probation. After the defendant’s probation expires, the defendant may still owe you money for your loss. The benefit of receiving a judgment from the court awarding you restitution is that you can record the judgment against the defendant. Additionally, the judgment is not dischargeable in bankruptcy per Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code.
In the event that a defendant owes you money, there are a few ways you can collect, such as enforcing it as a civil judgment, seeking wage garnishment and filing a lien on the personal property of the person who failed to pay restitution.
In conclusion, officers should do their best to maintain records of the damages that they incur when they have been the victim of a crime. Officers in these sorts of difficult situations should also reach out to attorneys who can aid them through the process. It is important that officers be advocates for themselves when they are the victims of crime, in the same way they are advocates for the public they assist.
About the Author
Nicole R. Castronovo is an associate in the Injury Resource and Litigation Group and Legal Defense Practice Group. She primarily works on auto, pedestrian and construction site cases, assisting on complicated medical issues. Nicole also collaborates on medical malpractice cases. Prior to joining Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver, PC, Nicole clerked at the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and spent several years working at a criminal defense firm in the Los Angeles area.
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[My representative] did an excellent job! I would highly recommend him to any officer in need of LDF services.
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- Adam Laird Eureka POA
Dear PORAC Legal Defense Fund, This email has been weighing on my heart and should have been sent a long time ago. However, time seems to move fast even though your life has been put on hold. I have been on administrative leave since December of 2012. In April of 2013, I was arrested for the performance of my duties. Since the administrative side this case has not been resolved, I won't be getting into specific details regarding my case. However, I will say that I never thought that my life would turned upside down by doing the job that I love, and doing it in a way that I had been trained. I have been in Law Enforcement for 10 years, and I have been paying my monthly dues all along. I never really understood how important paying dues might be for me, I just thought it was the "cost of business". After being arrested, I understood the real worth of that investment. Because of politics, my case was given the "full court press". On January 3rd of 2014, the case against me was dismissed. It took no less than 5 experts to convince the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office to request dismissal. The time, effort, and money that this case cost couldn't have been endured by me as the sole provider of a family of four. LDF was there, big time. The panel attorney's under LDF were the best in the business. In the uncertain time during the criminal process, I couldn't have imagined how much help they could be. What a relief to know that LDF had my back. I am used to defending those who can't defend themselves. That's my job. When I was defenseless, LDF and the attorneys assigned to my case were my advocates and defenders. I thank you. My criminal attorney said it best at the conclusion of my criminal case: "Adam and his family are thankful that they can now move forward. The evidence showing Sgt. Laird was innocent was overwhelming. The expert EPD hired said that the suspect was rising up when Sgt. Laird pushed him back to the ground. The two experts that the DA’s office hired said that the force was reasonable and appropriate. The defensive tactics instructor who trained Adam said he acted consistent with his training in apprehending a high risk suspect in a dangerous situation. In total, five separate police practices experts reviewed the case and unanimously said Sgt. Laird acted appropriately". "It is hard to imagine what it must be like to risk your life apprehending a known gang member only to be charged with using excessive force when the suspect stated that he did not even feel the contact at issue. It is simply bizarre that Sgt. Laird was ever charged with a crime". Thank you. My family and I will forever be grateful for your service, Sergeant Adam Laird
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You guys did an amazing job! Thank you L.D.F. !
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Being a police officer in the city of Oakland, I appreciate the services that are offered.
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My LDF representative had a power point presentation, which was extremely professional.
- David Heller Yolo County DSA
The charges against me, if sustained, would have likely ended my LE career. I was rightfully exonerated on all charges. I was well represented by [My Representative] and thank him for a job well done!!
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I was well represented and very glad to have LDF. Thank you.
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[My representative] is the poster face representative of the greatest attorney (representative) that anyone could possibly ask for. She gets a 12 out of 10 star rating. Nobody works harder.
- Joseph A. Henderson Merced POA
The firm I used was very valuable to my career and kept me updated as to status of the case. Thank you!
- Jon Seabron Oceanside POA
[My Representative] was the best and if I ever need to call al lawyer again for anything, I'll be calling her.
- Oliver Sansen Concord POA
In 14 years I have never had to deal with an "IA." [My representative] was wonderful & put my mind at ease throughout the entire process. Thank you!
- Robert Muelberg Denver PPA
I could not have had a better attorney. [My representative ] went way above and beyond his duties. I would not have had a better experience with my representative. I believe that the LDF is the single most important benefit a police officer could have!
- Brian Schopf Elk Grove POA
Keep up the good work.
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[My Representative] was fantastic, knowledgeable, professional and easy to talk and work with. Even though the allegations lodged have not been resolved, [My Representative] continued to communicate with me, to offer his assistance.
- Carlos Gonzalez Oakland POA
Very well informed group.
- Raymond Fisher Colorado State Patrol Assn
I have known for sometime that PORAC would provide the services I needed at the time I needed them. This is a professional competent organization prepared to handle the appropriate legal matters our officers face in today's environment.
- Cathleen Weldon Siskiyou Correctional POA
Very Comforting to have a knowledgeable person looking out for my best inerests. Thx!
- Greg Gladson LA Airport POA
[My representative] was very professional and helpful. She kept me informed with my options and the direction of the investigation.
- Omar Daza-Quiroz Oakland POA
I have had (2) two cases in which LDF represented me. Both lawyers were exceptionally professional, intelligent and caring for me. They were friendly and very helpful.
- Billy Aldridge Chico POA
[My representative] was awesome! He provided an excellent explanation of the process and was very professional. This was my first IA in 11 years of LE and [my representative] did a great job of reassuring me that I had nothing to worry about. Thank you so much for all your help.
- Yvonne Heuston ERS/SPPOA Supervisors
My representative was outstanding and knew what to lookout for and how to handle situations as they appeared. He told me what to expect and how he proposed to handle the hurdles. Just telling what to expect helped put me at ease as the situation was so foreign to me, and intimidating.
- Kenneth Nelson Plumas Co SA
Good job. Thank you! [My representative] does an outstanding job representing the employees and seems to be very intimidating to the [County Management]. We like it this way!
- James Walker Yakima Police Patrolsman Assn
This attorney and her legal team were one of the best I’ve seen and interacted with. I was always in the loop and constantly updated on the case status. I would use (my attorney) again if the need came and recommend her to anyone.
- Daniel Smock Ventura County PPOA
Everything went smooth. I think the current system works very well.
- Scott Muir Tracy POA
Very satisfied with the service I was given.
- German Alvarez Anaheim PA
[My representative ] was great!
- Ricky L. Hemphill Los Angeles School PA
[My representative] was an excellent lawyer.
- Allison Clark Twin Cities POA
[My representative] is the best attorney LDF has. Her attention to details, professionalism, and intelligence were off the charts. If I did not have her as a rep I would probably be out of a job. She is fair and she was honestly concerned about me, my family and my case.
- Patrick Beggs Fresno Co DSA
Good service. Thank you.
- Phillip Flores Oxnard POA
My attorney was excellent. I would use her again.
- Katie Angermiller Tuolumne Co DSA
I was very satisfied with the work the LDF performed. The lawyers and clerical staff at [law firm] were all very kind, professional and they always assisted me when I called and never made me feel like I was a burden. Thank you LDF!
- Caitlin Collins Tiburon POA
[My representative] made himself available 7 days a week understanding that those were my needs. He was very well informed and kept me on the right track and in the right frame of mind.
- Anthony Russo Clark Co School District
The members of my Association are very pleased with the level of representation that PORAC has given to us. As the President I can not thank you all enough.
- Miguel Suarez Monterey Co DSA
[My representative] was very knowledgeable and courteous. He knew his stuff, and I couldn't have asked for a better guy to be on my side on this matter. Thanks.
- Linda Mendez Imperial Co Prob and Corr
I'm very pleased with the services offered by the LDF. I feel so fortunate to enjoy the benefits of having the membership. The services provided by LDF to its members is simply 110% professional, supportive, great!! LDF care for its members is reflected by the quality of Best Law Firm offered, simply the best!
- Gilbert Garcia Oceanside POA
My attorney provided outstanding representation.
- Patrick Davis Oakland POA
Very knowledgeable and thorough and would use the rep again.
- Kip RIngen Lake Co DSA
My LDF rep kept me well informed concerning the progress of my case. I was extremely satisfied with the service I received. Thanks.
- Steven Moorehouse Redding POA
Thank you for your help.
- Kevin Hullquist Siskiyou Co. Correctional POA
[My representative] did a good job representing me. Kept me informed.
- James Beckman Miracosta College POA
Excellent service everytime.
- Roy Iler San Benito CO LEM
[My representative] always returned phone calls and let me know if he was contacted with information.
- Cherie Rye Lyon Co SEA
I am very happy with the service I received from LDF. I am grateful that our association includes LDF as part of our dues.
- Micheal Chad Heiser Santa Rosa POA
LDF is a valuable resource that no law enforcement officer should be without.
- Grace Castro AFGE Local 2455 – Laredo, TX
My representative was very kind and showed he cared when explaining what my legal rights were when dealing with an internal investigation.
- Steven E. Lopez Santa Maria POA
Keep up the Good Work! Your service was extremely helpful to me. Thank you.
- Tamboura Nettingham Claremont Custody Center EA
My representative was an outstanding rep. I was very fortunate to be represented by her and the firm should be very proud to have her in it. She's courteous, smart and aggressive when needed. I would not ask for anyone else, if any other situation evolved, she's the best. Thanks.
- Carl Miller Clearlake POA
- Erick Gaunt Palos Verdes POA
- Jaime Kim Oakland POA
My rep did a good job. First we met and he explained that there might be culpability on my part but not nothing close to the allegations. I appreciated his honesty as we have all done things that can be taken out of context so it was important he told me to realize that.
- Alex Camarillo LASchool P A
[My Representative] did an excellent job with my case. He was very professional and kept me well informed throughout this case. Thank you for an awesome job.
- Chad Sakamoto National City POA
Although this incident was unfounded, it's still stressful. My LDF rep kept me informed and kept "work" at work.
- Matthew Gardner Colorado PPA
I would not want to be an officer without this coverage. It was great to have it and kept my mind at ease.
- Doug Plumhoff Ridgecrest PEA
Great job by all! Always great to know LDF is there when needed.
- Jack Ellis Lompoc POA
An excellent plan. Very valuable to its members.
- Alvaro Ancheta Glendora POA
I felt I was represented in a thorough and professional manner.
- Michael Sexton Manteca POA
[My representative] was awesome.
- Christopher Adams Modesto POA
Thank you for all your help!
- Paul Hernandez LA Gen Services POA Inc.
[My Representative] was very helpful in my situation and I can't thank him enough.
- Christopher M. Fuzie Modesto POA
I was very impressed with the speed at which the case was handled. Thank you!
- Christopher Connally Assn of LEA
To whom it may concern: Let me start by saying how much I appreciate the opportunity to join the PORAC Legal Defense Fund. This is a great benefit for our membership. During the past twelve months I was fortunate to have access to the Legal Defense Fund through MPCA. Earlier this year I was both surprise, and disappointed, when realized that I needed to provide counsel to mediate pending litigation. In accessing the Legal Defense Fund I found your staff to be very professional and reassuring. The staff felt that [my representative]., would be the best ft for the situation. I would like to take the opportunity to express my appreciation for being represented by [Rick Barry]. Not only was he a good fit for the circumstances, at times it seemed as if he was the only attorney out of several involved that really had a grasp on the issues. Again, I would like to thank the PORAC staff, and know that I could not have been better served than by what was provided by [my representative].
- Kelly K. Roe San Joaquin Co Corr Officers
[My representative] did a fantastic job at returning my phone calls and keeping me informed of any and all information pertaining to my case. I would recommend him to anyone.
- Tai Pena-Hornung Oakland POA
Those who foolishly feel LDF is not a valuable resource, do so only because they have not yet needed legal representation.
- Craig Caches Fremont POA
I have only used LDF once for myself, which with the circumstance was great. I work with LDF in my assignment ( OIS investigator ) and after approximately 4-5 OIS's, I have great experiences with LDF.
- Miguel Masso Oakland POA
[I'm very satisfied and grateful] for LDF representing me. My attorney was professional, honest, and very knowledgeable of his profession. During these tough times my attorney would contact me on a regular basis to see how I was doing. This was obviously not part of his job description, but it kept me at ease and not losing my mind. I'm thankful that I was represented by LDF.
- Michael Shephard Suisun City POA
LDF is a very valuable resource. I would not do this job without it.