Facing criminal charges can be overwhelming, especially when the aftermath involves not just legal consequences but also financial burdens. Texas criminal courts are allowed to issue restitution orders to victims of criminal cases, and the payments must be made as part of a defendant’s criminal case. Criminal restitution can exist in addition to civil liability for actions related to a criminal offense. In a recent Texas case, a defendant found himself ordered to pay restitution for damages resulting from a car accident, raising questions about the fairness of such rulings. This blog post delves into the intricacies of restitution in Texas criminal cases and highlights the need for a vigilant defense against potentially unjust financial burdens.
According to the facts discussed in the recently published judicial opinion, the case involved a collision where the defendant damaged a utility pole and an antique truck. While convicted of failure to perform a duty to provide information after the accident, the defendant was ordered to pay restitution for damages caused by the accident. The key question at hand is whether restitution can be ordered for an offense that did not directly cause the damage. The lower court entered a restitution ruling against the defendant, leading him to appeal.
The appellate court saw things differently than the trial court, and agreed with the defendant’s arguments that the restitution order was not appropriate. The defendant was convicted of failure to comply with duties after an accident, not for causing the damage to the utility pole and truck. The court noted that Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, which governs the imposition of restitution. It emphasizes the statutory references requiring a direct connection between the offense and the damage caused. The analysis underscores that the criminal offense must be the cause of the damage for restitution to be justified.