The Tennessee Supreme Court issued opinions in two cases holding that restitution orders in criminal cases need not contain payment terms or a payment schedule to be final and appealable. Orders for restitution only have to set the amount of restitution; and, if no payment time is set, then the default payment time is the end of the defendant’s sentence.
In the first case, Johnny Summers Cavin pleaded guilty in the Sullivan County Criminal Court to burglary and theft of property valued between $2,500 and $10,000. The trial court sentenced Cavin to two-and-a-half years of probation and required him to pay $5,500 in restitution during his probationary period. The Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the appeal holding that the restitution order was not a final order due to the trial court’s failure to set payment terms or a payment schedule.
In the second case, Joseph Gevedon drove through a Giles County cemetery and damaged multiple gravestones. Gevedon pleaded guilty in the Giles County Circuit Court to driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. The trial court sentenced him to serve eleven months and twenty-nine days in jail, suspended after forty-eight hours, and payment of restitution. The trial court later revoked Gevedon’s probation after he was charged with additional crimes and ordered him to pay over $30,000 in restitution. The Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed Gevedon’s appeal holding that the trial court’s restitution order did not contain payment terms or a payment schedule and thus was not a final order.
The Tennessee Supreme Court granted review in both cases to consider whether a trial court’s restitution order is a final order when it does not specify payment terms or a payment schedule. The Court reversed the Court of Criminal Appeals in both cases, holding that Tennessee’s restitution statute allows, but does not require, trial courts to set payment terms and a payment schedule in a restitution order. The Court ruled that the restitution orders resolved all issues in the cases and were final and appealable.
In Cavin’s case, the Court affirmed the restitution order, finding the trial court properly considered the victim’s loss and Cavin’s financial resources and ability to pay when setting the amount of restitution. However, the Court vacated the restitution order in Gevedon’s case, ruling that the trial court failed to consider Gevedon’s financial resources and ability to pay restitution by ordering Gevedon to pay over $30,000 in restitution while also ordering him to serve the rest of his sentence in jail where he had no earning ability.
Justice Sarah K. Campbell wrote separate opinions in both cases, concurring in part and concurring in the judgments. She agreed that the restitution orders were final and appealable, but she reached that conclusion for different reasons than the majority. In her view, the restitution orders were final because the record showed that the trial court thought it was finished with the case, not because the order satisfied all statutory requirements.
To read the opinion of the Court authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee in State of Tennessee v. Johnny Summers Cavin, and the separate opinion authored by Justice Sarah K. Campbell; and the opinion of the Court authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee in State of Tennessee v. Joseph Gevedon, and the separate opinion authored by Justice Sarah K. Campbell, please visit the Opinions section of TNCourts.gov.