Can I add interest onto restitution that someone owes me?

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Can I add interest onto restitution that someone owes me?

About 6 months ago, someone stole my cashback from a self-service machine in a popular retailer. The detective on my case just called a few days ago to tell me they found the person who did it and that they wanted to try and work it out without me pressing charges. I wanted to know what exactly I was entitled to. Can I add interest or do I have to press charges to get more than what they took?

Asked on May 30, 2011 under Criminal Law, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First, pressing charges does NOT get your reimbursement--or rather  that's not the purpose. Sometimes, *if* someone is convicted, as part of their punishment, whatever they stole will be taken from them and, if the victim can be identified, it will be returned to him; however, that doesn't always happen, and again, it's not the purpose of the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system enforces society's laws and punishes law breakers; it's not there to reimburse victims of crimes.

Second, you are *not* allowed to threaten someone with pressing charges if they don't repay you. As a practical matter, this may happen--often, even--but it's against the law. The criminal justice system can't be used to obtain payment.

Third, if the other person does repay you, then yes, you can then decline to press charges and the authorities can also decline to take action, basically on the grounds of a "fiction"--i.e. that no crime was really committed, and it was just a misunderstanding that was worked out.

As for  what you can seek--you can ask for more, to accomodate your inconvenience, time loss of money, etc. But if the other party doesn't agree to pay that, you don't really have leverage for the reasons given above--you cannot officially condition not pressing charges on receiving restitution plus. You may sue the criminal; but in a law suit like that, all you can recover is your out-of-pocket losses.


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