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National Crime Victim Law Institute

State v. N.R.L., — P.3d —, Nos. CC J090305, CA A144789, SC S060355, 2013 WL 5497227 (Or. Oct. 3, 2013) (en banc).

October 16, 2013

Juvenile offender, who admitted to unlawfully entering a warehouse and causing damage to the victim’s property, was adjudicated delinquent for acts that, if committed by an adult, would constitute second degree burglary and first degree criminal mischief.  After the trial court entered a judgment ordering juvenile offender to pay $114,071 in restitution to the victim, juvenile offender appealed, arguing that the trial court violated his state constitutional right to a jury trial “in all civil cases” when it denied his request for a jury to determine the amount of restitution.  Juvenile offender asserted that the state’s constitutional victims’ rights amendment along with recent amendments to the criminal and juvenile restitution statutes have transformed restitution into “a civil recovery device whose primary purpose is compensation for victims.”  The court of appeals rejected juvenile offender’s argument, concluding that he was not entitled to a jury trial because restitution is primarily penal in nature.  The state supreme court affirmed.   In reaching its decision, the court noted that prior to the constitutional and statutory amendments at issue, it had addressed a similar question in State v. Hart, an adult criminal case wherein it concluded that restitution is a criminal sanction not subject to the right to a jury trial for civil cases even though the state restitution law “embodied a ‘peculiar blend of both civil and criminal law concepts.’”  The court determined that restitution in a juvenile proceeding is similar to restitution in an adult criminal proceeding in that it is a sanction for conduct that is criminal in nature; therefore, it “may be understood … as an ‘aspect of criminal law.’”  The court recognized that under current law crime victims have an enforceable right to restitution; however, it disagreed with juvenile offender’s characterization that this right makes a restitution determination analogous to a private claim for damages.  The court reasoned that the victims are “not parties” to the restitution proceeding; restitution judgments are imposed in favor of the government, and they may be enforced only by the government.  The court also reasoned that when a victim is denied his or her constitutional right “to receive prompt restitution,” the claim of a rights violation “is a claim that the trial court did not properly discharge its constitutional obligations[,]” rather than a claim to recover monetary damages from a juvenile offender.  The court further recognized that under current law, courts have a mandatory obligation to order restitution.  In this respect, the court found that the fact that restitution is “now mandatory rather than discretionary serves to highlight its penal nature.”  The court emphasized that contemporary restitution statutes serve “a combination of civil and criminal law purposes,” and that the legislative history supports the conclusion that mandating compensation for the victim “is a tool to achieve penal and rehabilitative ends.”  For these reasons, the court affirmed the court of appeals’ decision and the trial court’s judgment.