Howard L. Dimmig, II, Public Defender, and Caroline Joan S. Picart, Assistant Public Defender, Bartow, for Appellant. Ashley Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and C. Todd Chapman, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa; and Natalia Reyna-Pimiento, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa (substituted as counsel of record), for Appellee.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hillsborough County; Lawrence M. Lefler, Judge.
Howard L. Dimmig, II, Public Defender, and Caroline Joan S. Picart, Assistant Public Defender, Bartow, for Appellant.
Ashley Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and C. Todd Chapman, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa; and Natalia Reyna-Pimiento, Assistant Attorney General, Tampa (substituted as counsel of record), for Appellee.
X.S. challenges the trial court's disposition order adjudicating him delinquent and placing him on probation for the delinquent acts of armed burglary of a conveyance and grand theft with a firearm. We affirm but write to address X.S.'s argument that the trial court erred in imposing $65 in crime prevention funds as part of the court's costs assessment. X.S. challenges the amount of that assessment, arguing that it exceeds the statutory maximum for crime prevention funds that is set forth in section 775.083(2), Florida Statutes (2022). He maintains that in a case involving a felony, the statute caps the cost for crime prevention funds at $50. We disagree.
"The starting point for any statutory construction issue is the language of the statute itself-and a determination of whether that language plainly and unambiguously answers the question presented." State v. Peraza, 259 So.3d 728, 730 (Fla. 2018). And "[t]he plainness or ambiguity of statutory language is determined by reference to the language itself, the specific context in which that language is used, and the broader context of the statute as a whole." Conage v. United States, 346 So.3d 594, 598 (Fla. 2022) (alteration in original) (quoting Robinson v. Shell Oil Co., 519 U.S. 337, 341 (1997)). "[J]udges must 'exhaust "all the textual and structural clues"' that bear on the meaning of a disputed text." Id. (quoting Alachua County v. Watson, 333 So.3d 162, 169 (Fla. 2022)).
With that in mind, section 775.083(2) provides as follows:
[C]ourt costs shall be assessed and collected in each instance a defendant pleads nolo contendere to, or is convicted of, or adjudicated delinquent for, a felony, a misdemeanor, or a criminal traffic offense under state law, or a violation of any municipal or county ordinance if the violation constitutes a misdemeanor under state law. The court costs imposed by this section shall be $50 for a felony and $20 for any other offense.(Emphasis added.)
We conclude that this statutory language plainly and unambiguously states that crime prevention fund costs shall be imposed on each offense for which a defendant is convicted-or pleads nolo contendere or is adjudicated delinquent. As such, the statute does not set a maximum cap per case; this particular statutory cost is to be imposed per count. The textual and structural clues that lead us to this conclusion include the legislature's use of the phrase "in each instance" as well as the fact that the statute sets a certain amount to be imposed "for a felony" and a different amount "for any other offense." Id. (emphasis added). Furthermore, our reading of the statute aligns with Florida Supreme Court precedent. In McNeil v. State, 215 So.3d 55, 58 (Fla. 2017), the court considered costs imposed pursuant to sections 938.08 and 938.085, Florida Statutes (2006), which both "require costs to be assessed for 'a violation' of an enumerated statute," and section 938.10, which "requires assessment of costs for a nolo contendere or guilty plea to 'any offense' enumerated in the statute." Id. (quoting McNeil v. State, 162 So.3d 274, 276 (Fla. 5th DCA 2015)). The court concluded that "the language used in these sections-'a violation' and 'any offense'-is unambiguous and reflects legislative intent that the costs be imposed for each violation or offense." Id.
Pursuant to the statute, X.S. should have been assessed $100 in crime prevention fund costs as he was adjudicated guilty of two delinquent acts that are felonies. We do not understand how the trial court calculated the costs to arrive at the $65 figure that it imposed, but the State has not appealed that amount, and the only issue before us with regard to the imposition of the cost is whether it exceeded the dictates of the statute, which it did not.
We acknowledge that in Webster v. State, 705 So.2d 970, 971 (Fla. 2d DCA 1998), this court made the blanket statement that "statutory costs must be assessed per case, not per count." However, it is clear from the text of Webster that the costs at issue were not imposed pursuant to section 775.083, the statute at issue here. Furthermore, in making that statement in Webster, this court cited Mills v. State, 672 So.2d 873 (Fla. 2d DCA 1996), and Rafael v. State, 679 So.2d 314 (Fla. 1st DCA 1996). The statutes at issue in those cases are distinguishable from section 775.083(2) in that they use language that makes clear that the assessment is a per case assessment. See §§ 27.3455(1) ("[T]here shall be imposed as a cost in the case . . . a sum in accordance with the following schedule . . . ." (emphasis added)) (repealed 2005); 943.25(3) ("All courts created by Art. V of the State Constitution shall, in addition to any fine or other penalty, assess $3 as a court cost against every person . . . ." (emphasis added)); 960.20(1) ([T]here shall be imposed as an additional cost in the case . . . ." (emphasis added)) (renumbered 938.03 and amended 1997), Fla. Stat. (1995). The bottom line is that whether a particular statutory cost is to be levied per count or per case must be determined on a statute-by-statute basis. See generally McNeil, 215 So.3d at 59-60 ("McNeil correctly notes that appellate courts have recognized in some cases that costs should be assessed per case, albeit under different cost statutes. However, these decisions are not inconsistent with our decision today. As previously noted, these cases did not involve [the statutes at issue in McNeil], nor did the disputed statutes in those cases contain the critical language at issue here . . . ." (citations omitted)).
Like the statutes at issue in McNeil, section 775.083(2) uses language-"in each instance," "a felony," and "any other offense"-that unambiguously reflects a legislative intent that crime prevention fund costs be imposed per count rather than per case.
VILLANTI and LABRIT, JJ., Concur.
Opinion subject to revision prior to official publication.