Court Finds That Reduction In Prison Sentence Because Of Immediate Restitution Payment Does Not Run Afoul Of Constitution

Posted On Friday, December 6, 2013

A Florida appellate court recently ruled that a trial court’s decision to reduce a 10-year prison sentence to 8 years in exchange for an immediate upfront restitution payment for victims of a financial scheme did not violate the defendant’s 14th Amendment due process rights.  The Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld the conviction of Jean Noel on racketeering and first-degree grand theft charges.  The court held that the trial judge’s sentence reduction in exchange for an immediate $20,000 payment was constitutional.

Noel was initially sentenced to 10 years in prison plus 10 years probation and ordered to pay $650,000 in restitution for victims of his scheme.  The trial judge said Noel could reduce his sentence by 2 years with an immediate restitution payment of $20,000.  This recent opinion conflicts with an earlier Florida appellate opinion from 2011 where the court said that a similar reduction violation the defendant’s constitutional rights because it results in harsher punishment for an offender who cannot pay the immediate restitution.

The jury is still out on whether similar decisions will be upheld as constitutional.