In criminal cases, the Defendant is often ordered to pay restitution as part of their sentence. This could be following a guilty verdict, or might instead be part of their plea agreement with the court. Many municipal courts refer these cases to Empowered Pathways to determine the amount of the restitution to be made.
The harmed party presents evidence and gives sworn testimony to help in determining the appropriate amount of restitution, establishing the value of damaged or stolen property, for example. The Defendant may present their own case, offering evidence and testimony in turn to propose a different valuation. The arbitrator makes a final decision, which is forwarded to the court to be incorporated into the final sentencing.
Typically, the Defendant is ordered to appear for the arbitration hearing. The harmed party sometimes has safety concerns about being present in the same space as the Defendant, particularly when the criminal actions leading up to the hearing were of a violent nature. As a result, parties have a number of options for participating in the hearing. Parties may appear electronically, including via speakerphone or webcam. ((This must be arranged with staff in advance.) Evidence and written testimony (in the form of a sworn, notarized affidavit) may be submitted no less than three days in advance of the hearing by fax, e-mail, US mail, courier, or simply by being dropped off in person.
It is important to note that documents and information provided to law enforcement or the courts is NOT provided by those agencies to the arbitrator. The parties must present this evidence at the hearing, and if those agencies hold the only copy, then parties are responsible for having it duplicated.
Restitution Arbitration hearings are held according to Article 75 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules.
There is no additional cost to the parties for the restitution arbitration service, and any court in Oneida County or Madison County may refer cases to the service without cost.