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COA: Courts need to consider proportionality of damages in restitution orders

June 5, 2013

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a Franklin Circuit judge’s decision to require a defendant to pay restitution and a fine after he entered into an open plea agreement on a burglary charge. But the judges instructed trial courts to consider apportioning the amount of restitution among co-perpetrators in relation to each person’s contribution to the victim’s loss.

Jesus Gil pleaded guilty in August 2012 to one count of Class B felony burglary pursuant to an unwritten plea agreement. In return, a second count of felony burglary was dismissed. The charges stemmed from his involvement in a home invasion in which jewelry and other items were taken in December 2010. Gil was sentenced by Franklin Circuit Judge J. Steven Cox to 12 years in the Department of Correction with two years suspended to probation. He was ordered to pay a $250 fine and the victims $20,000 in restitution, jointly and severally with the three other perpetrators.

Gil challenged the imposition of the fine and restitution order, the probation terms and his sentence in Jesus S. Gil v. State of Indiana, 24A04-1211-CR-603.  

The appellate judges affirmed Cox’s order that Gil must pay the fine and restitution because the open plea agreement left sentencing up to Cox’s discretion, but the COA did order a new hearing on the restitution. There wasn’t sufficient evidence that the victim suffered a loss of $20,000.

At the new hearing, Cox should consider whether imposing joint and several liability for the full amount of the restitution order is constitutionally proportionate under Article I, Section 16 of the Indiana Constitution to the nature of the offense committed by Gil when he only caused a portion of the damages and in relation to the sentences entered against the other co-defendants. The COA pointed out that all sentencing courts should consider these circumstances.

The trial court also abused its discretion by not specifying the conditions of Gil’s probation. The trial court failed to provide him a written statement of probation terms and, although the judge did orally indicate that no contact with the victim was a term of the probation, Gil never acknowledged he understood this as a term of his probation, Judge Paul Mathias wrote. The judges ordered Cox to enter written probation terms.

They also affirmed Gil’s sentence as appropriate given the nature of the offense and his character.

 

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