A trial court has authority to order restitution under Wash. Rev. Code § 9.94A.753(5), which states that restitution shall be ordered whenever the offender is convicted of an offense which results in injury to any person or damage to or loss of property. Restitution is appropriate so long as there is a causal connection between the crime and the injuries for which compensation is sought. A causal connection exists when, but for the offense committed, the loss or damages would not have occurred. The trial court cannot impose restitution based on a defendant's general scheme or acts connected with the crime charged, when those acts are not part of the charge.
On Dec. 12, 2008, the Superior Court for Pierce County (Washington) entered a judgment on verdicts finding defendant, Augustus Martel Oakley, guilty of three counts of second degree assault, each while armed with a firearm, and one count of attempted drive-by shooting. On the basis of the firearm special verdicts, the court imposed a firearm enhancement on the sentences for each of the three assault convictions. In addition, the court entered a restitution order making Oakley and a co-conspirator jointly and severally responsible for the cost of repairing damage to a vehicle and a garage door caused by defendant and the coconspirator while fleeing the crime scene. Oakley appealed, arguing that insufficient evidence supported the attempted drive-by shooting conviction because his gun failed to discharge. He further contended that the imposition of firearm enhancements on his assault convictions violated his right to be free from double jeopardy. Moreover, he argued that the trial court erred by ordering restitution because the damages were unrelated to his convictions.
Did the trial court err in its decision ordering restitution for damages that were unrelated to the conviction?
The sate appellate court affirmed Oakley's attempted drive-by shooting conviction and the imposition of firearm enhancements for his assault convictions. Nevertheless, the court reversed and remanded to the trial court to vacate the portion of the restitution order that applied to Oakley. According to the court, even though the gun did not discharge, there was sufficient evidence to support Oakley's attempted drive-by shooting conviction, for purposes of Wash. Rev. Code §§ 9A.36.045(1), § 9A.28.020(1), given that he took a substantial step towards committing a drive-by shooting when he pointed a gun at the victims from the vehicle and attempted to fire it. Furthermore, several witnesses saw the gun protruding from the car window and identified Oakley as the one holding the gun and one victim even heard a cracking sound like the sound of a gun jamming when Oakley tried to shoot again. Also, a firearms expert stated that the gun was operable if correctly loaded. The court noted that under case law, imposing firearm enhancements under Wash. Rev. Code § 9.94A.533(3)(e) on Oakley's second-degree assault convictions was not a violation of his right to be free from double jeopardy. However, the court held that the trial court erred in ordering him to pay restitution under Wash. Rev. Code § 9.94A.753(5) because there was no causal connection between Oakley's charged crimes and the damages to a person's vehicle and garage door.