Can A Court Order Me To Pay Restitution If My Child Commits A Crime?
While prison is often the form of punishment that concerns criminal defendants the most, it is worth noting that jail is not the only way a court can hold an offender accountable for their actions. Florida law authorizes a court to award restitution–i.e., financial compensation–to the victims of any criminal act. The prosecution must still present evidence proving any losses to the victims, but the burden of proof is lower than is required for a conviction. In cases involving juvenile offenders, the court also has the discretion to award restitution “in a reasonable amount or manner” that does not exceed the amount that the offender–or their legal guardians–can reasonably be expected to pay.
Florida Appeals Court Orders New Restitution Hearing After Teenager’s Actions Damage Multiple Vehicles
Restitution is not necessarily limited to physical damage to property. It can include other items such as the victim’s loss of business income. But any restitution must be tied “directly or indirectly” to the defendant or juvenile offender’s criminal act.
A recent decision from the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal, State v. P.C.L., provides a case in point. In this case, a teenager stole their neighbor’s car, wedged a concrete block onto the gas pedal, and sent the vehicle “careening” into two other vehicles, an Expedition and a Durango, parked in a driveway.
Prosecutors charged the juvenile with grand theft and two counts of criminal mischief causing at least $1,000 in damage. The juvenile pleaded no-contest to the charges. The trial court then held a hearing to determine restitution to the victim, i.e., the owner of the two damaged vehicles.
The victim testified at the hearing that his Durango was totaled and that the Expedition required several thousand dollars in repairs. He also claimed that there was damage to the gate surrounding his house, which he believed was created by the “domino effect” of the collision of the three vehicles. Finally, the victim said he lost a $180,000 federal contract because he was unable to use the damaged vehicles for his work.
The trial court declined to order any restitution. It held the victim’s testimony was not substantiated by other evidence. And as to the damaged gate, there was “no nexus between the crime and the damage to the gate.” That is to say, there was no evidence the juvenile’s actions was actually what damaged the gate.
The state appealed the judge’s ruling. The Fourth District ordered a new hearing with respect to the damage to the Expedition and the victim’s loss of income from the federal contract. The appellate court said the trial judge failed to properly explain or support their decision on those issues. Similarly, the Fourth District said the trial court erred by “not making sufficient findings related to the Child’s and the parent or guardian’s ability to pay restitution to the victim.”
Contact Orlando Criminal Defense Attorney Jose Baez Today
If your child commits a crime, you may be on the hook for financial restitution to the victim. That is why it is crucial to work with an experienced Orlando juvenile crimes lawyer who can represent your child should the need arise. Contact the Baez Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation.