COA reverses $66K restitution order for insufficient evidence

A father will still get time behind bars for failing to pay at least a decade’s worth of child support, but questions as to how much he owes led to the reversal of his more than $66,000 restitution order on Friday.

In February 2013, Jackie Pratt was charged with Class C felony nonsupport of a dependent after he was alleged to have failed to provide child support in an amount of at least $15,000 for two of his children between August 2000 and January 2013. His alleged arrearage at the time was $39,188.66.

Five years later, the alleged dates were amended to August 2000 to August 2010. Pratt pleaded guilty, but disputed how much he owed, claiming the amount was approximately $20,000.

Without evidence, the state argued Pratt owed $66,059.46 in child support. The St. Joseph Circuit Court agreed, ordered Pratt to pay the larger restitution amount and sentenced him to three years behind bars. It further denied his objection that the amount was actually $26,500.

Although it found Pratt’s sentence was not inappropriate in light of the nature of his offense or his character, the Indiana Court of Appeals did find issue with the restitution order in Jackie Pratt v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-3099.

Specifically, the appellate court found that the state’s assertion that presenting the trial court with Pratt’s Indiana Support Enforcement Tracking System, or ISETS, number and a “substantial amount of information from the civil case” was insufficient evidence to support the restitution amount.

“We cannot agree that ‘this was enough.’ While the trial court’s order refers to the ISETS database, the court did not state that it took judicial notice of any court records or identify those records,” Judge Edward Najam wrote for the court. “Evidence is required for appellate review of a restitution order. We do not have access to the civil case or to ISETS. Without any evidence in the record on appeal to support the restitution order, our review is significantly hindered.”

The appellate court further found that it did not have access to either the child support orders in the civil case or to Pratt’s case information through the ISETS database. Neither did the state ask the trial court to take judicial notice of the amount of Pratt’s arrearage, it continued, nor did the order indicate the trial court took judicial notice of the verifiable information.

“Given the record on appeal, we are obliged to say that the evidence is insufficient to support the restitution order. Accordingly, we reverse and remand to the trial court for further proceedings on this issue,” the appellate panel concluded. “The parties may submit evidence to the trial court to support their arguments regarding the amount of Pratt’s arrearage, or the trial court may take judicial notice of the amount of the arrearage, providing documentation to aid our appellate review should Pratt seek review after remand.”

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