Florida Court Discusses Enforcement of Restitution Orders in Criminal Cases

In many criminal cases, the courts will order a person convicted of a crime to pay restitution. Further, the government is permitted to enforce restitution orders by garnishing or collecting a defendant’s property, with few exceptions. Recently, a Florida court analyzed whether it could collect restitution from a defendant’s inmate trust account in a case in which the defendant was convicted for child pornography crimes. If you are charged with a sex crime, it is wise to meet with a skilled Tampa sex-crime defense attorney to discuss your rights.

The History of the Case

It is reported that in 2015, the defendant was charged with receiving child pornography. He entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to 240 months in prison. He was also ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution to the victims harmed by his crime. In January 2021, the government filed a motion requesting that the district court issue an order allowing the Bureau of Prisons to turn over money in the defendant’s inmate trust account as payment towards the restitution he owed after the defendant received a $1,200 check from the government pursuant to the CARES Act. Specifically, the government sought $1,100 of the payment the defendant received. The defendant opposed the motion, but the court granted it. The defendant then appealed.

Enforcement of Restitution Orders in Criminal Cases

In cases involving child pornography crimes, restitution is mandatory. The appellate court explained that orders of restitution in such cases operate as a lien in favor of the government on all property and property rights of the person fined. Thus, the government can enforce a restitution order against a defendant’s property unless it falls under one of few enumerated exceptions.

The appellate court elaborated that if a defendant receives significant resources from any source, such as inheritance, judgment, or settlement, while they are incarcerated, the defendant will be required to apply the value of the resources to any fine or restitution they still owe. Based on the foregoing, the appellate court stated that it found no error with the trial court issuing an order determining that the stimulus check the defendant received from the government was a substantial resource that the defendant was required to apply towards his restitution debt. Additionally, the appellate court concluded that such payments did not fall under any of the statutory exceptions to enforcement of court ordered restitution. As such, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer in Tampa

Convictions for sex crimes often not only result in lengthy prison sentences but also can lead to the imposition of significant fines and restitution orders as well. If you are accused of committing a sex crime, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney to assess what defenses you may be able to set forth. The experienced Tampa criminal defense attorneys of Hanlon Law can assess the circumstances surrounding your charges and craft persuasive arguments on your behalf. You can contact Hanlon Law via the form online or at 813-228-7095 to set up a conference.