Florida law permits the courts to not only sentence people convicted of crimes to imprisonment but also to order them to pay restitution to their victims. Recently, a Florida court discussed the basis for imposing a restitution order in a battery case in which it affirmed the trial court’s sentence. If you are accused of battery, it is in your best interest to meet with a Tampa violent crime defense attorney to determine what arguments you may be able to assert in your defense.
Factual and Procedural Overview
It is reported that the defendant faced charges of high-speed or wanton fleeing, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon on law enforcement officers, and resisting officers without violence. His charges stemmed from a single incident in which he was involved in a car chase and reportedly rammed his truck into sheriff’s deputy vehicles. During the trial, conflicting evidence arose regarding whether the defendant’s vehicle hit the deputies’ cars or vice versa. The jury found him guilty of attempted aggravated battery and acquitted him of the principal offense of aggravated battery.
Allegedly, following the defendant’s conviction, the trial court sentenced him to prison and ordered restitution of $8,018.85 for the property damage inflicted on the sheriff’s vehicles. Although the defendant did not object to the restitution order during sentencing, he later contested it in a motion, asserting that he was acquitted of the charge forming the basis of the restitution. The court denied his motion, and he appealed.
Restitution in Attempted Aggravated Battery Cases
On appeal, the crux of the defendant’s argument lay in the premise that his conviction for attempted aggravated battery, rather than aggravated battery, demonstrated that the jury did not find that he had actually rammed the deputies’ vehicles. Therefore, he contended that the restitution order could not be based on conduct for which he was acquitted.
The court analyzed the difference between the two offenses—aggravated battery and attempted aggravated battery, noting that attempted aggravated battery could involve striking a vehicle without injuring or connecting with the person inside it. As such, the court found that the jury’s decision to convict the defendant of the lesser included offense did not necessarily mean they found he did not damage the deputies’ vehicles. Accordingly, the court found that the restitution order could be supported by the conviction for attempted aggravated battery.
The defendant also argued that restitution was improper because the sheriff’s office was not a “direct victim” under Florida’s restitution statute. The statute defined “victim” to include governmental entities when they are direct victims of the defendant’s offense. The defendant pointed out that he was acquitted of the principal offense related to the battery on officers.
Upon examining the amended statute, the court concluded that the sheriff’s office qualified as a direct victim. The office’s vehicles were directly damaged by the defendant’s conduct, and the statute encompassed such circumstances. Moreover, damage to law enforcement vehicles was deemed restitution-worthy by courts in other jurisdictions as it was not a typical cost of providing law enforcement services. Thus, the court upheld the restitution order.
Talk to an Assertive Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney
People found guilty of battery on law enforcement officers might have to pay fines and restitution in addition to serving time in prison. If you are accused of a battery offense, it is wise to talk to an attorney about your possible defenses. The assertive Tampa criminal defense lawyers of Hanlon Law can advise you of your rights and set forth compelling arguments in your favor. You can reach Hanlon Law by using the form online or by calling us at 813-228-7095 to set up a conference.