In addition to issuing prison sentences, federal courts have the right to order people convicted of certain crimes to pay restitution. Such amounts generally must reflect the actual damages caused, however; otherwise, defendants may be able to argue that they are unconstitutional. Recently, a Florida court examined what constitutes appropriate restitution in an identity theft case in which it ultimately rejected the defendant’s argument that the amount imposed was excessive. If you are accused of committing a theft crime, it is important to understand your rights, and you should speak to a Tampa theft crime defense attorney as soon as possible.
Procedural History of the Case
It is alleged that the federal government indicted the defendant with aggravated identity theft, mail fraud, and other offenses. He entered into a written plea agreement, agreeing to plead guilty to two of the counts and to make full restitution to the victims of his crimes. Further, he acknowledged that the restitution amount determined by the court would be in excess of $260,000 and that he waived the right to appeal the sentence imposed unless it exceeded the sentencing guideline range or statutory maximum or violated his Eighth Amendment rights.
It is reported that the court accepted the defendant’s guilty plea and the plea agreement, sentenced him to approximately 250 months in prison, and ordered him to pay restitution in excess of $440,000. He appealed, arguing that the government failed to offer evidence of loss sufficient to support the restitution amount.
Restitution in Theft Cases
The court rejected the defendant’s arguments on appeal and affirmed the restitution amount. First, the court noted that the defendant attempted to circumvent his waiver of the right to appeal by arguing that the restitution amount surpassed the maximum amount allowable by statute. The court spurned this argument, noting that the restitution law does not set forth a maximum.
The defendant also asserted that the restitution amount violated his Eighth Amendment protections against excessive fines. The court declined to adopt this reasoning as well. The court explained that fines would only be deemed excessive if they are grossly disproportionate to the severity of the defendant’s crimes.
In the subject case, the restitution imposed by the district court directly reflected the defendant’s offense, as he was ordered to pay the actual amount of the losses he caused his victims to suffer. Finally, the court found that any other argument asserted by the defendant was barred by his waiver of the right to appeal. Thus, the court affirmed the district court’s restitution order.
Talk to a Trusted Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney
The courts can impose substantial penalties on people convicted of theft crimes, including ordering them to pay restitution. If you are accused of identity theft or any other theft offense, it is smart to talk to an attorney to investigate your options for protecting your interests. The trusted Tampa lawyers of Hanlon Law have ample experience defending people in the Florida courts, and if you hire us, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. You can contact Hanlon Law via the form online or at 813-228-7095 to set up a meeting.