Being convicted of a white-collar crime can have serious consequences, including prison time. After being found guilty, you may be ordered to pay restitution to the victims, thereby incurring a lien that cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. In this article, you will learn what the best Houston white-collar crime lawyers have to say about restitution, including how to build a legal defense that will help you avoid conviction altogether.

Ask a White-Collar Crime Lawyer: What Is Restitution?

Restitution is a sentencing option that can factor into white-collar crime cases, including money laundering, fraud, and embezzlement. The idea behind restitution is that the guilty party should be held responsible for making the victim “whole” again by paying back the assets that were taken illegally. If you are found liable for paying restitution, the government will impose a lien on your accounts.

How Is Restitution Collected?

Once the lien is put in place, there are several ways it can be collected. While many people think that restitution can only be collected after the guilty party is released, this belief is untrue.

Depending on the terms of the lien, the nature of the guilty party’s employment, and the kinds of assets he or she possesses, the debt may be collected by:

  • Garnishing a percentage of the wages the guilty party earns while in prison
  • Taking a percentage of an inheritance or another type of substantial windfall
  • Garnishing wages earned by the guilty party post-release
  • Seizing the guilty party’s assets

Timeline of Collection

A restitution lien can continue to affect the guilty party’s accounts for up to 20 years after the Federal judgement is imposed. If the guilty party is obligated to spend time in prison, the lien will remain in effect for up to 20 years after he or she is released.

How the Collection Is Prioritized

Many types of liens can be absolved through bankruptcy, and wage garnishment is generally illegal according to many state laws. Exceptions are made, however, for certain types of debt, like child support and tax obligations. A restitution lien is equivalent to an IRS debt and carries the highest level of collection priority. As such, bankruptcy laws and statutes protecting individuals against wage garnishment do not apply to restitution cases.

How Is the Amount of the Lien Calculated?

Federal statutes regulate how the appropriate amount of money needed to repay a restitution debt is determined. Before the trial, the government will conduct an investigation into the crime and its effect on the victim. After the investigation is complete, the defendant’s pre-trial probation officer is notified of the restitution amount. The officer then creates an official report for the court containing the information revealed in the investigation.

How Do Houston White-Collar Crime Lawyers Handle Restitution?

Disproving the Allegations and Winning the Case

Our first priority is to give the accused as much information as possible regarding what restitution constitutes and the impact it can have on the defendant’s life. In the best situations, we can build strong arguments that result in the case being thrown out or acquitted. There are many viable defenses against white-collar crime, including:

  • Proving entrapment
  • Showing that the accused acted without intent
  • Demonstrating illegal search and seizure
  • Arguing that intoxication, insanity, coercion, and/or duress played a role in the crime
  • Finding that the government exceeded the statute of limitations

Negotiating for a Restitution Settlement

While avoiding conviction altogether is preferable to receiving a sentence of any kind, including restitution, the amount of money required of the guilty party can be negotiated. If restitution is unavoidable, a white-collar crimes lawyer can speak on behalf of the defendant to arrive at a reduced settlement figure.  

What Should You Do If You Suspect You Will Be Brought Up on White-Collar Crime Charges?

White-collar crime is handled by the federal government, potentially incurring an FBI investigation and felony charges. If you suspect that you may be accused of committing a white-collar crime or if an investigation is already underway, it is important to act quickly. Speaking with a white-collar crime lawyer as soon as possible can help you strategize your defense while cooperating with the authorities to avoid further accusations. You can learn more about your legal options here.

Restitution is a sentencing option that is available to the court in most white-collar crimes cases. If you are facing accusations of white collar crime, being aware of how your restitution case might play out is essential for preparing your accounts and doubling down on your efforts to avoid conviction. Getting the input of a lawyer who has handled a variety of white-collar crime cases is essential.