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D.A.H. v. State

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

January 11, 2019

D.A.H.
v.
State of Alabama

          Appeal from Talladega Juvenile Court (JU-02-100089.08 and JU-02-100089.09)

          JOINER, JUDGE.

         Delinquency petitions were filed in the Juvenile Court of Talladega County, charging D.A.H.[1] with first-degree arson, see § 13A-7-41, Ala. Code 1975, and second-degree arson, see § 13A-7-42, Ala. Code 1975. Following a hearing, the juvenile court adjudicated him delinquent and committed him to the custody of the Department of Youth Services. On May 11, 2018, the court held a restitution hearing and awarded $7, 408.33 in case number JU-02-100089.08, and $69, 177.92 in case number JU-02-100089.09. D.A.H. filed a postjudgment motion asking the court to amend or vacate its order, but that motion was denied. D.A.H. appeals the juvenile court's order requiring him to pay restitution.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On November 9, 2017, Officer Chris Vinson with the Sylacauga Police Department filed delinquency petitions against D.A.H. Those petitions charged D.A.H. with first-degree arson for intentionally setting fire to a building, in violation of § 13A-7-41, Ala. Code 1975 (JU-02-100089.08), and with second-degree arson for burning a barn which contained cars, motorcycles, and other items, in violation of § 13A-7-42, Ala. Code 1975 (JU-02-100089.09).[2] A delinquency hearing was held during which D.A.H. denied the charges against him. As a result of that hearing, the juvenile court adjudicated him delinquent and committed him to the custody of the Department of Youth Services. The State then moved for a restitution hearing, and that motion was granted.

         On May 11, 2018, a restitution hearing was held[3] during which the juvenile court heard testimony from victims David Thornton and Kim Smith. Thornton testified that his barn, along with the motorcycles, rebuilt automobiles, and automobile parts inside the barn, was damaged by the fire set by D.A.H. and his accomplices. According to Thornton, the total cost of the damage to that property was $203, 100. He further testified that, as a result of the incident, he was going to have to pay an estimated $22, 000 to clean up the damage. On cross-examination, the defense questioned Thornton extensively about those amounts. The State and the defense later stipulated to a claim from Thornton's insurance company, Progressive Insurance, for restitution in the amount of $4, 467.75.

         Next, Kim Smith testified as to the damage that was done to her rental property. Specifically, she testified that her trailer and the appliances and furnishings inside the trailer were all damaged in the fire started by D.A.H. and his accomplices, which resulted in a total of $22, 225 in property damage and included the estimated $1, 500 she would have to spend to clean up the property and to remove the resulting trash and debris. On cross-examination, the defense questioned Smith extensively about those amounts.

         D.A.H.'s grandfather, Calvin Parrett, was the only witness who testified on D.A.H.'s behalf. At the end of the restitution hearing, the court took the matter under advisement. It also stated on the record that it believed that children ought to be responsible for the damage they cause.

         On May 17, 2018, the juvenile court issued a restitution order in which it ordered D.A.H. to pay Smith $7, 408.33 and to pay Thornton $69, 177.92. On May 31, 2018, and June 7, 2018, D.A.H. filed what appeared to be identical motions to alter, amend, or vacate the juvenile court's restitution order. In those motions, D.A.H. argued that the court's restitution order was contrary to this Court's holding in D.J.W. v. State, 705 So.2d 521, 524 (Ala.Crim.App.1996). Specifically, he argued that the Court failed to consider all the relevant factors required by D.J.W. in awarding restitution and that the State failed to prove that the property had been accurately valued by the victims.

         A hearing was held on D.A.H.'s motions on June 21, 2018. The primary argument asserted by D.A.H. during that hearing was that restitution was primarily about the rehabilitation of the delinquent child and that the juvenile court's order was contrary to that principle. D.A.H. also asserted that he had no job, no education, and no means to pay the restitution. Finally, he argued that the State had failed to prove that the damaged property had been accurately valued by the victims. D.A.H.'s motion was denied. Thereafter, D.A.H. filed a timely notice of appeal.

         Discussion

         I.[4]

         D.A.H. argues that the juvenile court abused its discretion by ordering him to pay "nearly $80, 000 in restitution that was unsupported by any documented evidence aside from the victims' testimony." (D.A.H.'s brief, p. 9.) According to D.A.H., the State failed to present any documentary evidence to support the damages the juvenile court awarded to Thornton and Smith. (D.A.H.'s brief, pp. 9-12.) As a result, D.A.H. contends that the amount of restitution the juvenile court ordered him to pay "constitutes a clear and flagrant abuse of discretion and should be set aside." (D.A.H.'s brief, p. 12.) We disagree.

         It is well settled that "[t]he particular amount of restitution is a matter which must of necessity be left almost totally to the discretion of the trial judge." Ex parte Stutts, 897 So.2d 431, 433 (Ala. 2004) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Moreover, the exercise of "[t]hat discretion should not be overturned except in cases of clear and flagrant abuse." Id. Additionally,

"'[t]he 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 ...

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