Criminals' Mistakes Could Cost You Big Bucks - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Criminals' Mistakes Could Cost You Big Bucks

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KENNEWICK, Wash--  Somewhere hidden in almost every police station is this: thousands, upon thousands, of dollars worth of bills.  They're mostly for medical payments, tow-trucks, any damage resulting from criminal activity.  And you're left to front the cost.

"If the offender doesn't pay for it, then eventually through budget supplements and things like that, the tax payers end up paying for it," says Lieutenant Joe Lusignan of the Benton County Sheriff's Office.

But there is a way to refund your tax dollars; it's called restitution.

"What we seek restitution for is expenses we incur that are outside the norm of just responding to the needs of our citizens," adds Lusignan.

Filing for restitution may be the easiest part.  It's a matter of passing those bills to the prosecutor's office.  But it's anyone's guess when that money is back in your pocket.

"A lot of times we're dealing with felons, a lot of the time that means it's hard for them to get a job," notes Benton County Prosecutor Terry Bloor.

Failure to pay court-ordered restitution could land you up to 60 days behind bars, but it's not uncommon for that reimbursement to take years to pay off. 

In the meantime, someone has to pay, and right now it's you.