In Re: E.K.

Dallas Court of Appeals No. 05-07-00125-CV, 12-14-2007.

Texas Lawyer



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FACTS: On March 23, 2006, the Rowlett Police Department was called to investigate a possible burglary at a vacant day care center. When officers arrived, they observed several broken windows and could hear voices and the sound of glass breaking coming from inside the building.

The officers entered the building and found three male juveniles, E.K. and his two brothers. The inside of the building was severely damaged with many broken fixtures, including lights, ceiling panels and interior windows. In addition, E.K. and his brothers had poked holes in the walls, damaged cabinets and interior doors, and destroyed a television set. The officers arrested the boys, and the district attorney's office filed a petition of delinquent conduct.

On Oct. 16, 2006, E.K. pleaded true to the state jail felony offense of criminal mischief. The trial court declared E.K. a child engaged in delinquent conduct. The trial court placed E.K. on probation for 12 months under the supervision of his father and ordered restitution in the amount of $9,336.10 to be paid in monthly installments to the victim of the offense.

E.K. appealed, challenging the factual sufficiency of the evidence to support the order of restitution.

HOLDING: Affirmed.

An award of restitution in a juvenile case, the court stated, is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard.

E.K.'s contention, the court stated, that insufficient evidence supported the order of restitution focuses on the requirements of Texas Family Code §54.041(b). That section requires that a program of restitution "promote the rehabilitation of the child, be appropriate to the age and physical, emotional, and mental abilities of the child, and not conflict with the child's schooling."

E.K. argued that the evidence showed that, at the time of trial, he was 13 years old and had been diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar disorder. E.K. contended that the monthly restitution payments would require him to obtain full-time employment, which would be difficult given his mental and emotional issues. In addition, full-time employment would disrupt his schooling.

These facts, according to E.K., showed that the trial court's order did not comply with §54.041(b). Furthermore, E.K. argued that the onerous nature of the restitution order countered the goal of rehabilitation by teaching him the law is oppressive and imposes demands that cannot be met.

The court disagreed with E.K.'s assessment of the restitution order for several reasons.

First, the court noted that the restitution order was imposed not only on E.K., but also on his brothers and his father, jointly and severally. E.K., the court stated, would not necessarily be required to seek full-time employment for the restitution to be made. His family could jointly pay the restitution, the court stated.

Second, the court found that the evidence supported the amount of restitution set by the trial court as equal to the cost of repairs made to the building as a result of the vandalism caused by E.K. and his brothers.

The court stated that the trial court did not order the restitution to cause hardship to E.K. or his family but to compensate the victim for the amount of damages he suffered due to the delinquent conduct. The law promotes the protection of property owners, the court stated, and provides compensation for them for the willful and malicious destruction of their property by minors.

Finally, the court stated that the record supported the imposition of restitution in this case for the rehabilitative purpose of impressing upon E.K. the seriousness of his actions. The trial judge noted that E.K. and his brothers did not appear to take the charges made against them seriously. The judge observed that the boys misbehaved in court by joking and "kidding around" with one another. Restitution can be an effective means to impress upon a juvenile the serious consequences of delinquent behavior, including financial consequences, the court stated.

Based on the foregoing, the court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding restitution in the amount of $9,336.10.

OPINION: Morris, J.; Morris, Bridges and O'Neill, JJ.

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