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D.J.J. v. State

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

November 21, 2014

D.J.J.
v.
State of Alabama

Appeal from Jefferson Juvenile Court (JU-06-75716.03)

ON RETURN TO REMAND

WINDOM, Presiding Judge.

D.J.J. appeals the juvenile court's order of restitution in the amount of $1, 448.85. The restitution was ordered after D.J.J. was adjudicated delinquent based on his pleading true to a charge of first-degree receiving stolen property, a violation of § 13A-8-17, Ala. Code 1975.[1]

On November 20, 2013, Officer Ronald Brown of the Birmingham Police Department initiated a traffic stop on a Chrysler 300 vehicle. D.J.J. was the driver of the vehicle. Officer Brown checked the license number of the vehicle, which revealed that the vehicle had been stolen from Sandra Jolla on October 15, 2013. D.J.J. admitted that he knew the vehicle was stolen and that he had received it from his step-brother.

As a result of the theft, Jolla incurred $1, 448.85 in losses -- $500 of that amount represented her insurance deductible, while the remainder was the result of personal property that was in her vehicle at the time of the theft but was not recovered.

On appeal, D.J.J. argues that the juvenile court erred in assessing restitution for the personal property that was in Jolla's vehicle because he did not plead true to receiving those items, nor was there any evidence presented indicating that he was ever in possession of those items.

"The right of crime victims to receive restitution is set forth in the Restitution to Victims of Crimes Act, § 15–18–65 et seq., Ala. Code 1975 ('the Act')." Roberts v. State, 863 So.2d 1149, 1152 (Ala.Crim.App.2002). Section 15-18-65 states:

"The Legislature hereby finds, declares and determines that it is essential to be fair and impartial in the administration of justice, that all perpetrators of criminal activity or conduct be required to fully compensate all victims of such conduct or activity for any pecuniary loss, damage or injury as a direct or indirect result thereof. The provisions of this article shall be construed so as to accomplish this purpose and to promote the same which shall be the public policy of this state."

Section 15–18–66(1), Ala. Code 1975, defines "criminal activity" as "[a]ny offense with respect to which the defendant is convicted or any other criminal conduct admitted by the defendant." Although the legislative intent of Alabama's restitution scheme dictates a broad application, a trial court's discretion in ordering restitution is not unlimited. A defendant

"could be ordered to pay restitution to the victim of his crime only if one of two conditions existed: (1) his victim suffered direct or indirect pecuniary loss as a result of the criminal activity of which the defendant has been convicted, or (2) he admitted to other criminal conduct during the proceedings that was the proximate cause of the victim's pecuniary loss or damages."

B.M.J. v. State, 952 So.2d 1174, 1176 (Ala.Crim.App.2006).

D.J.J. and the State both rely on Ex parte Theodorou, 53 So.3d 151 (Ala. 2010). In Theodorou, the appellant, who had pleaded guilty to third-degree receiving stolen property, was assessed restitution, in part, for pecuniary damage suffered by the victim that occurred before the appellant purchased the stolen property. The Alabama Supreme Court utilized a market theory to affirm this Court's affirmance of the order assessing restitution, reasoning that the appellant's willingness to purchase the stolen property created a market for the thief.

"[A]lthough Theodorou's receipt of the stolen equipment may not have directly caused the damage here, we agree with the State's argument that Theodorou's criminal conduct was an indirect cause of that damage; by purchasing the property that he knew was stolen, Theodorou intentionally placed himself in the chain of activities that included the theft of the specific ...

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