Court Discusses Grounds for Awarding Restitution Under Florida Law

In many instances in which a criminal defendant is convicted of a crime, the court will not only sentence the person to jail time or probation but will also order him or her to pay restitution costs. A court may not order restitution without basis, however. Rather, as discussed in a recent Florida theft case, certain factors must be present for a restitution award to be valid. If you are accused of committing a theft crime, it is smart to consult a skillful Sarasota theft crime defense attorney to evaluate your rights.

The Alleged Crime and Restitution Award

It is reported that the defendant was charged with three counts of dealing in stolen property, giving a pawn shop owner false verification of ownership, and other crimes. He entered a guilty plea to all charges. Following his sentencing, he challenged an award of restitution for a stolen diamond bracelet, arguing that as he was not charged with stealing the bracelet and the item was not within the original charge of dealing in stolen property, his guilty plea did not constitute an agreement to pay for it. Upon review, the appellate court affirmed the award.

Grounds for Awarding Restitution Under Florida Law

Under Florida law, if a defendant challenges a restitution award, the court must assess whether the damage or loss the defendant has been ordered to pay for is both causally related to and bears a substantial relationship to the crime. In order for a restitution award to be causally connected to a crime, it must arise out of the crime for which the defendant was actually charged. Additionally, if a defendant agrees to pay restitution as part of a plea agreement, his agreement is limited to restitution for the charged crime, as reflected by the information or the factual basis for the plea that was set forth by the State when the plea was entered.

A court will examine discovery materials and arrest affidavits to determine whether the items for which restitution was ordered were listed as part of the factual basis for entering the plea. The court explained that, essentially, the issue that must be examined in restitution challenges is whether the defendant had notice he would be asked to pay for an item.

In the subject case, the court explained that the defendant’s arrest warrant alleged that he committed grand theft in addition to the offenses with which he was charged. Further, the arrest affidavit stated that the defendant admitted to stealing the items he pawned and items the victim listed as missing, including the diamond bracelet. Thus, the court found that the defendant had sufficient notice that the bracelet could be a compensable restitution item, and affirmed the restitution award.

Speak to a Trusted Sarasota Attorney

If you are faced with theft charges, it is in your best interest to retain an attorney to assist you in your defense. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a trusted Sarasota theft crime defense attorney with the knowledge and experience needed to help you fight to retain your rights, and he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Hanlon at 941-462-1789 or through the form online to schedule a meeting.

Does it help me to be cooperative with the police?

No. If you’re the suspect in an investigation, nothing you offer to law enforcement is ultimately going to help your case or prevent you from getting formally charged. It can only hurt you. Before speaking to the police, it is always important to consult with an experienced criminal attorney. Many times what you tell the police officer does not end up in his report. You should remember that every law enforcement officer has an agenda, and what actually ends up in their report is often an interpretation of what you tell them. Many times that interpretation is used by the law enforcement officer to support their decision to arrest you.

If I have a warrant out for my arrest should I contact law enforcement?

Before contacting law enforcement you should always discuss the circumstances surrounding your arrest warrant with an experienced criminal attorney. We may be able to dismiss your charge and your warrant and avoid your arrest.

How do I know the lawyer I retain is doing everything possible to properly defend the allegations against me?

First, you should make sure that you retain a criminal defense attorney you trust. Before you retain an attorney, spend the time you feel is necessary to gain that level of trust. Second, you should keep in regular communication with your attorney to discuss the steps they are taking in order to bring about the best possible result in your case.

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