COUNTY CRIMINAL COURT: CRIMINAL LAW Ė Restitution Ė the State must establish both causation and the amount of loss or damages by a preponderance of the evidence- the cause of the accident was the other driverís failure to yield the right of way and not the defendantís intoxication. Order imposing restitution reversed.Rady v. State, No. 0604476CFAWS, (Fla. 6th Cir.App.Ct. May 1, 2007).

 

 

IN THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR THE SIXTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT

OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA IN AND FOR PASCO COUNTY, FLORIDA

APPELLATE DIVISION

 

 

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Appeal No.0604476CFAWS

††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Case No: 056054DVRTWA†††

VINCENT LEE RADY,†††††††

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Appellant,††

 

v.

 

 

STATE OF FLORIDA,

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Appellee.

___________________________/

 

Ryan Thomas Truskoski, Esq.

Attorney for Appellant

 

Devin Jones, Esq., A.S.A.

Attorney for Appelee

 

 

ORDER AND OPINION

 

††††††††††† The appellant plead no contest and was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in violation of Florida Statute 316.193.On June 23, 2006, a restitution hearing was held.The trial court entered its order setting restitution in the amount of $2150.00, half of the requested restitution. The appellant filed a timely notice of appeal. After reviewing the briefs and record, this Court reverses the trial courtís decision.

Appellant, Rady, and the alleged victim, St. Valley, were in a car accident. After investigation, the appellant was issued a citation for DUI which included property damage in the amount of $4000.00. The victim, Patricia St. Valley, received a citation for failure to yield to right of way.Appellant plead no contest and was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in violation of F.S. 316.193.

At the restitution hearing, St. Valley testified that she hit her head in the accident and had a horrible headache along with some spasms, which she had before the accident from a previous injury. St. Valley admitted that she was the cause of the car accident.

After testimony, the defense argued that restitution should be denied because the state failed to prove a relationship between the amount of restitution and the defendantís actions. The defense also argued that restitution should be denied because the defendant was not charged with DUI property damage.However, the state responded that appellantís traffic citation stated `property damage in the amount of $4000.00.í Finally, the defense argued that according to the police report and citation, St. Valley was the party at fault; adding that the appellant had a stroke and his car was totaled as a result of this accident.The trial entered its order setting restitution in the amount of $2150.00, 50% of the requested institution..

In dealing with the issue of restitution, the Supreme Court of Florida has stated the following:

This Court, . . . allowed restitution in a case where there was a significant relationship between the damages and the offense. . . .This significant relationship test does not replace the causal relationship required by section 775.098(1)(a). Rather, we believe that the significant relationship test . . . should work in conjunction with the causation required by the statute.

 

State v. Williams, 520 So. 2d 276, 277. (Fla. 1988). After commenting on the

Williams case, the Second District Court of Appeal, in Arling v. State, 559 So. 2d 1274, 1275 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990) stated the following:

We believe the causation required between the offense and the damage under Williams is similar, if not identical, to the proximate causation required in tort between a tortious act and the resulting damage. See Fla.Std.Jury Instr. (Civ.) 5.1. Thus, the victim should be entitled to recover damages through criminal restitution if the causal connection between the criminal offense and the damage is comparable to that proximate causation which would allow the victim to relate comparable damages to a wrongful act in tort.

 

In Watson v. State, 579 So. 2d 900, 901 (Fla. 2d DCA 1991), the court commented on OíSteen v. State, 547 So. 2d 235 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989) as follows:

. . . the Court applied a two pronged test to determine whether restitution could be awarded: (1) was the damage or loss for which restitution is ordered caused directly or indirectly by the defendantís offense, (2) was there a significant relationship between the damage to the victim and the crime proved.

 

††††††††††† With the general tests having now been set forth, the closest case to the presentsituation appears to be Stewart v. State, 571 So.2d 485 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990).In that case, the defendant was driving with a suspended diverís license when he collided with another car. Both drivers received traffic citations and both drivers admitted their offenses in traffic court.The defendant was placed on probation and a condition of that probation was that the defendant pay restitution to the other driver. The defendant objected to thatcondition of probation.In dealing with the issue of restitution and reversing the circuit court appellate decision upholding the imposition of restitution, the appellate court stated the following:

Restitution may be imposed only for damages that are caused directly or indirectly by a defendantís offenseÖThere must be a significant relationship between the damages and the offense . . . The significant relationship test works in conjunction with the causation required by statute.

Applying the above to the facts herein, it is apparent that the suspension of the petitionerís license was an existing condition, not the cause of the accident.Because the driving with a suspended license was not the cause of the accident, it had no relationship to the damages suffered by the other driver.

 

In Schuette v. State, 822 So. 2d 1275 (Fla. 2002), it seems clear that the Supreme Court agrees with the reasoning of the Second District Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court points out that it is the Stateís burden to establish causation, as well as the amount of any loss suffered by the victim.ďThe State has the burden of establishing causation †††. . .as well as the burden of demonstrating the amount of loss sustained by the victim as a result of the offense.. . . .Further, the State must establish both causation and the amount of loss or damages by a preponderance of the evidence.ĒId. at 12780-1279.†† The Supreme Court does a careful analysis of the case law on the topic of causation.Thus, the mere fact that a defendant is engaged in the criminal act of driving with a suspended driverís license when an accident occurs does not automatically require that restitution be imposed on the defendant.

Based on the foregoing principles and the facts of this case, this Court finds that the fact that the defendant was driving while intoxicated, while certainly an existing condition or status, was not the cause of the accident. St. Valley admitted that the accident was her fault and she was cited for failure to yield the right of way.In short, the cause of the accident was the other driverís failure to yield the right of way and not the defendantís intoxication.Driving under the influence alone is insufficient to impose restitution. The State simply failed to sustain its burden of proving causation by a preponderance of the evidence. It is, therefore,

ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the decision of the trial court is REVERSED.

 

DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers at New Port Richey, Pasco County, Florida this __ day of___________, 2007.

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

 

 

________________________

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† W. Lowell Bray, Circuit Judge

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Primary Appellate Judge

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

__________________

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Daniel D. Diskey

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Circuit Judge

 

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ______________________

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Stanley R. Mills

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Circuit Judge

 

 

Copies to:

Ryan Thomas Truskoski, Esq.

Devin Jones, Esq., A.S.A.

Honorable Marc Salton

County Court Judges/ Pasco