When it comes to sentencing a convicted defendant, judges have many choices other than incarceration. Fines, community services, and restitution are also common options. Learn about the difference between fines and restitution below:
Less serious offenses (especially committed by first-time offenders) are often punished with fines. These “less serious” offenses include a small amount of marijuana, shoplifting, and traffic violations. In most places throughout the country, laws will specify the maximum amount an offender may be fined for an offense. The judge will then impose a fine he or she sees fit up to (but not exceeding) that amount.
Although fines and restitution are often confused, they are not the same. Fines will go to the state/federal/local government. Restitution money is an amount the defendant pays to the victim/state restitution fund. In fraud schemes, the defendant may have to pay the state back for the money that was fraudulently taken. In other cases, the offender may be required to return/place stolen/damaged property or compensate victims for injuries, medical treatment, or funeral costs. Restitution can be just one part of the sentence or added to a punishment such as probation, prison time, or even community service.