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National Crime Victim Law Institute

People v. Stanley, — P.3d —, No. S185961, 2012 WL 2686050 (Cal. July 9, 2012) (slip opinion).

July 10, 2012

Defendant pled no contest to felony vandalism of the victim’s pickup truck, and the trial court ordered $2,812.94 in restitution—the amount an automotive body shop estimated it would cost to repair the extensive damage caused by defendant’s criminal conduct.  Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court should have capped restitution at $950, the price the victim originally paid for the used truck.  The California Supreme Court rejected defendant’s argument and affirmed the trial court’s judgment.  The court began its opinion by describing the state’s restitution statute, which provides that the trial court must order defendants to pay full restitution to victims for every economic loss incurred as a result of defendants’ criminal conduct.  In the case of damaged or stolen property, the statute provides for restitution in the amount of “the replacement cost of like property, or the actual cost of repairing the property when repair is possible.”  The court then noted that the statute does not mandate that the restitution awarded must be the lesser of the two amounts; consequently, the “choice whether to award the property’s replacement cost or cost of repair ‘when repair is possible’ is left to the sound discretion of the trial court.”  The court agreed with the lower court’s rejection of defendant’s argument that the victim would receive a “windfall” if restitution were ordered in the amount of the higher repair cost: “The fact that the repairs will cost about three times the victim’s purchase price does not mean that she will receive a windfall: It means she will have her truck back in the same condition it was before defendant vandalized it.”  

NCVLI participated in this proceeding as amicus curiae, arguing to protect a victim’s right to restitution.  NCVLI argued that obliging defendants to confront and internalize the full monetary impact of their criminal actions is consistent with the constitutional and statutory mandate that victims be fully reimbursed for every determined economic loss.