Florida Court Overturns Restitution Order Due to Insufficient Evidence Linking the Crime to the Damages

The Florida statutes allow for a court to order a minor convicted of a crime to pay restitution for any damages caused by the crime. The State must show a significant link between the damages alleged and the restitution ordered for restitution to be proper, however.

This was explained in a recent case in which a Florida appellate court overturned a trial court order for restitution, finding the State had not produced sufficient evidence of a causal connection between the damages sought and the defendant’s conduct. If you are a juvenile living in Tampa and you are currently facing criminal charges, you should retain a trusted Tampa criminal defense attorney to assist you in formulating a defense that will provide you with a good chance of a favorable outcome under the circumstances. 

Facts of the Case 

It is reported that the defendant, a minor, was charged with grand theft of a motor vehicle. He entered into a plea agreement with the State, in which he pled to the lesser included offense of trespass of a conveyance and agreed to pay restitution. As such, the court ordered restitution with the specific amount to be determined at a later date. At a hearing to determine the restitution amount, the owner of the car testified that the car was in perfect condition prior to the theft, but had extensive damage when it was returned. The State presented an expert who testified that the estimated cost to repair the damage was $3,310.37. The defendant’s attorney argued that the State had failed to produce evidence showing that the damage alleged was caused by the defendant. The court disagreed, ordering the defendant to pay $3,310.37 in restitution. The defendant appealed.

Grounds for Ordering Restitution

On appeal, the court noted that the Florida statutes permit a court to order a minor to pay restitution for any damage caused by the minor’s criminal activity. The statute has been interpreted to allow restitution where the damage bears a significant relationship to the criminal activity. In the subject case, the court found that the State did not produce substantial, competent evidence to show a link between the charged offense and the damages claimed. Importantly, there was no evidence of damage in the police report. Additionally, the record indicated the defendant only drove the car for half an hour and slept in in for an hour and a half. Further, the court found that as the State did not produce an estimate of damages prior to the restitution hearing, the defendant had no notice of the damages he would be required to pay. Thus, the court reversed the restitution order and remanded for a new hearing.

Set Up a Consultation with a Skilled Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney

Juvenile defendants have rights under the law, including the right to be free from unjust penalties. If you are a juvenile resident of Tampa and are charged with a crime, you should consult a skilled criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and the potential penalties to the charges you face. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned Tampa criminal defense attorney who provide you with assertive and thorough representation. Mr. Hanlon can be reached at at 813-228-7095 or via the online form to set up a meeting.

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