California Penal Code Section 1202.4
Penal Code Section 1202.4, subdivision (a)(1), provides, "It is the intent of the Legislature that a victim of crime who incurs any economic loss as a result of the commission of a crime shall receive restitution directly from any defendant convicted of that crime."
With several limited exceptions not relevant here, section 1202.4, subdivision (f), in turn, provides, "In every case in which a victim has suffered economic loss as a result of the defendant's conduct, the court shall require that the defendant make restitution to the victim or victims in an amount established by court order, based on the amount of loss claimed by the victim or victims or any other showing to the court ... . The court shall order full restitution unless it finds compelling and extraordinary reasons for not doing so, and states them on the record."
Section 1202.4 reflects the mandate of article I, section 28, former subdivision (b), of the California Constitution, enacted by the voters on June 8, 1982 as part of Proposition 8, the "Victims' Bill of Rights," which declared that "all persons who suffer losses as a result of criminal activity shall have the right to seek and secure restitution from the persons convicted of the crimes causing the losses they suffer." (See People v. Giordano (2007) 42 Cal.4th 644, 652.)
This portion of the California Constitution was further amended by initiative (Prop. 9) on November 4, 2008; former subdivision (b) was renumbered subdivision (b)(13), and the text was modified slightly.
An order of restitution pursuant to section 1202.4 does not preclude the crime victim from pursing a separate civil action based on the same facts from which the criminal conviction arose. (Vigilant Ins. Co. v. Chiu (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 438, 442-443; People v. Clifton (1985) 172 Cal.App.3d 1165, 1168.)
"While a restitution order is enforceable 'as if it were a civil judgment' , it is not a civil judgment. A restitution order does not resolve civil liability." (Vigilant Ins. Co., at pp. 444-445.)
Moreover, a restitution order reimburses the crime victim only for economic losses, not noneconomic losses such as pain and suffering, which are recoverable in a civil action. (See 1202.4, subd. (f)(3); People v. Fulton (2003) 109 Cal.App.4th 876, 879, 884-885; Vigilant Ins. Co., at p. 445.)
Just as a restitution order does not fully replicate a civil judgment, so too the judgment obtained in a civil action does not completely satisfy the purpose of an order of restitution entered in a criminal case.
In addition to compensating the victim, a restitution order is intended to rehabilitate the defendant and to deter the defendant and others from future crimes. (People v. Crow (1993) 6 Cal.4th 952, 957; see People v. Dehle (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 1380, 1386; People v. Moser (1996) 50 Cal.App.4th 130, 134-135 57 Cal. Rptr. 2d 647.)
"A victim's right to sue a defendant for tortious conduct amounting to a crime and the state's right to impose a restitution order on a criminally convicted defendant are independent of one another." (Vigilant Ins. Co. v. Chiu, supra, 175 Cal.App.4th at p. 445.)
Because of the separate interests at stake and different purposes served by a restitution order and a civil action for damages by the crime victim, as well as the different categories of damages recoverable in the two proceedings, the settlement of a civil action and release of the defendant by the crime victim does not discharge the defendant's responsibility to satisfy the restitution order:
"Even when a victim obtains a settlement from a company that insured the defendant for civil liability, the court in a criminal action may order the defendant to pay victim restitution. This is so because the victim 'might rationally choose to accept an insurance settlement for substantially less than his or her losses rather than risk the uncertain ... possibility that the defendant will pay the entire restitution amount' , and the 'victim's willingness to accept the insurance settlement in full satisfaction for all civil liability, ... does not reflect the willingness of the People to accept that sum in satisfaction of the defendant's rehabilitative and deterrent debt to society.' " (Short, supra, 160 Cal.App.4th at p. 903.)
"A restitution order pursuant to a defendant's plea is an agreement between the defendant and the state. The victim is not party to the agreement, and a release by the victim cannot act to release a defendant from his financial debt to the state any more than it could terminate his prison sentence." (People v. Bernal (2002) 101 Cal.App.4th 155, 162.)