Criminal Cases – Opinions Released in Calendar Year 2023

State of Tennessee v. Johnny Summers Cavin (Restitution Concern)

Style: State of Tennessee v. Johnny Summers Cavin

TSC Docket Number: E2020-01333-SC-R11-CD

Date of Supreme Court Opinion:  June 8, 2023.

Summary by the Supreme Court:

State of Tennessee v. CavinNo. E2020-01333-SC-R11-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. June 8, 2023). The primary issue presented is whether a criminal restitution order is a final and appealable order under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3 when the order directs a defendant to pay a set amount of restitution without payment terms. A trial court ordered the defendant who had pleaded guilty to burglary and theft 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 and appealable order because it lacked payment terms. We hold that the restitution order was a final order. Tennessee’s criminal restitution statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-304, allows—but does not require—trial courts to specify payment terms. Here, the trial court’s restitution order resolved all issues, was reasonable, and appropriately considered the victim’s pecuniary loss and the defendant’s ability to pay.

Concurring Opinion:  I concur in the Court’s judgment reversing the Court of Criminal Appeals, and I agree with much of the majority opinion’s analysis, including its determination that the trial court did not err in ordering Johnny Cavin to pay restitution. I also agree with the majority’s conclusion that the restitution order here was final and appealable, but I reach that conclusion by way of a slightly different analysis. I write separately to explain how my reasoning differs from that of the majority. While the majority asks whether the trial court’s judgment satisfied the statutory requirements for restitution orders, I would focus instead on whether the record shows that the trial court thought it was finished with the case. In my view, the restitution order here was final because nothing in the record or on the face of the order suggests that the trial court believed there was more to be done, not because it did everything it was supposed to do.

Link to Court of Appeals Opinion:

Summary by the Court of Appeals:

The Defendant-Appellant, Johnny Summers Cavin, entered guilty pleas to burglary and theft of property valued more than $2,500 but less than $10,000. He also entered guilty pleas to unrelated charges from a separate case. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant received concurrent sentences of two years and six months each on supervised probation, to be served consecutively to the sentences he received in an unrelated probation violation case. In a subsequent restitution hearing, the trial court ordered him to pay a total of $5,500 in restitution. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to impose restitution and that, alternatively, the trial court erred in setting the restitution amount at $5,500, asserting that the victim’s pecuniary loss was not substantiated by evidence and that the amount is unreasonable based on the Defendant’s income. Upon review, we conclude that we are without jurisdiction to address the merits of the instant case, and the appeal is dismissed.

Order from TSC: Cavin Order

Issues Considered in the Appeal:

1. Whether a trial court’s judgment is final for purposes of Rule 3 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure when the trial court orders restitution pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-304 but does not specify a payment schedule for restitution.

2. Whether the trial court, in this case, abused its discretion by ordering the defendant to pay $5,500 in restitution without considering the defendant’s future ability to pay, after revoking the defendant’s probation and ordering him to serve three consecutive sentences of eleven months and twenty-nine days in confinement.

3. Whether the trial court erred by converting the judgment ordering restitution into a civil judgment without following the process prescribed by Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-304(h).

Permission to Appeal Granted: March 24, 2022

Appellants’ Briefs Filed: April 25, 2022

Appellees’ Briefs Filed: May 24, 2022

Appellants’ Reply Brief Filed: June 14, 2022

Appellees’ Reply Brief Filed:

Amicus Briefs Permitted:  

Oral Argument Date: September 7, 2022

Link to Oral Argument Video:


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