IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT
OF THE STATE OF
SCOTT E. SIEJA
Appeal No. CRC 04-00006 APANO
Opinion filed _________________.
Appeal from a sentence entered
County Judge Dorothy Vaccaro
Henry Gyden, Esq.
Attorney for appellant
C. Marie King, Esq.
Assistant State Attorney
MATTER is before the Court on the defendant, Scott Sieja’s, appeal from a
sentence and restitution order entered by the
The defendant pleaded no contest to charges of unlicensed general contracting. As part of that plea he agreed to pay restitution. The amount of the restitution was to be determined at a later hearing. After the later hearings, the trial court imposed restitution in the amount of $38,600.
In this appeal the defendant claims there should not have been restitution imposed because the restitution awarded to replace the victim’s loss was not causally related to the crime of unlicensed contracting. This Court does not agree. 1
defendant, a builder, contracted with the victim in this case to build the
victim a house. The defendant, however, did not have a general contractor’s
license. During the construction process, several errors were made. The result
was a house that was, in several ways, improperly constructed and defective.
During the proceedings below, testimony was taken as to the amount of money
that would be required to repair the house. At the conclusion of the hearing,
the trial court determined the appropriate amount needed to repair the house
and assessed that amount of money as the amount of restitution that the
defendant had to pay to the victim. The defendant argues that the damage to the
house was not caused by his criminal act of contracting without a license;
instead the damage was caused by faulty construction work. In support of his
argument, the defendant cites to that line of cases (most notably Schuette
v. State, 822 So.2d 1275 (
To claim that it was not the lack of a general contractor’s license that caused the damage, but the damage was caused by defective workmanship is sophistry. The main point in requiring that builders have general contracting licenses is to ensure that they are competent to do the work. To be entitled to have a general contractor’s license the individual must pass a test to demonstrate knowledge and ability. Once this minimum of knowledge and ability has been properly demonstrated and the test passed, a license is awarded. Individuals without such a general contractor’s license should not undertake such serious tasks as building a house. Such individuals are presumptively not qualified to do the work, and legally not even permitted to do it. When someone criminally undertakes such a task, and then the task is, perhaps not surprisingly, badly performed, that person should not be permitted to hide behind the too clever argument that the lack of a general contractor’s license did not “cause” the damage but the damage was caused by defective work.
In addition, knowing that only individuals who have demonstrated the necessary knowledge and ability are entitled to have general contractor’s licenses protects the public. By claiming to have a general contractor’s license when he did not actually have one, the defendant mislead the victim into allowing and paying him to build her house. Without committing this crime of attempting to build a house without a general contracting license, the victim would not have permitted the work to even begin. The damage caused to the house (i.e., the amount required as restitution) was caused by the defendant’s crime.
Finally, the defendant claims that the trial court erred in using testimony from one of the State’s witnesses in which a range of damage was put forth as the amount needed to repair the property. There is nothing improper about using this form of testimony. Moreover, there was testimony from the State’s other witness about the amount of the repairs. The amount of restitution is supported by the record.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the sentence and restitution order are affirmed.
AND ORDERED in Chambers at
David A. Demers
Robert J. Morris, Jr.
Irene S. Sullivan
cc: State Attorney
Henry Gyden, Esq.
1 Although he retained the right to require the State to demonstrate exactly what the amount of restitution would be, in agreeing to pay restitution the defendant arguably waived his right to contest the applicability of restitution in this case. There does appear to be a bit of uncertainty about what the defendant pleaded to. Was he agreeing to pay restitution and only the amount was in question; or was he only agreeing to pay for any damage that the State could prove was caused by his crime?