Restitution is a concept in criminal law that requires an offender to compensate crime victims for their losses. It is designed to both punish the offender and compensate the victim. In a Washington criminal case, restitution is to be ordered when the defendant is convicted of an offense that results in personal injury or property damage or loss. The injury or loss must be “causally connected” to the offense. Generally, this means that the loss would not have occurred but for the crime. The loss does not, however, have to be foreseeable.
In a recent case, a court ordered restitution for the loss of a weapon that was in the possession of the sheriff’s office. The defendant challenged a court order to pay restitution to the owner of a gun he was convicted of stealing. He argued the court erred in ordering him to pay restitution when the gun could have been returned to the owner instead.
According to the court’s opinion, the man had been served with a no-contact order that arose from an arrest for assaulting his estranged wife. In the same day, he visited the gun owner and asked to see his guns. He stole a pistol and left while the gun owner was in the bathroom. He later used the weapon to threaten his wife. The gun was recovered by the sheriff’s office and placed into evidence. The defendant admitted stealing it from the owner.