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National Crime Victim Law Institute

In re G.R., --- A.3d ---, No. 32, Sept. Term, 2018, 2019 WL 1434571 (Md. Apr. 1, 2019)

April 11, 2019

Juvenile defendant was adjudicated delinquent after he pleaded “involved” to charges of robbery, second-degree assault, and openly carrying a dangerous weapon.  Following the restitution hearing, juvenile was ordered to pay restitution, including for the cost of rekeying household locks belonging to family members of the victim when their keys were stolen from the victim’s backpack during the course of the robbery.  Juvenile appealed.  The appellate court vacated a portion of the restitution order to the extent juvenile was ordered to pay restitution for the costs of rekeying locks, based on the determination that the decision to rekey locks was not the direct result of the theft of the victim’s backpack.  The state petitioned for and was granted certiorari review.  The court explained that Maryland’s restitution statute provides that a juvenile may be ordered to pay restitution for certain expenses suffered as a “direct result” of the delinquent act.  The court found that the value of the locks was substantially decreased when the keys were removed from the possession of the victim during the course of the underlying robbery.  Household locks and the corresponding keys “ensure the sanctity and security of the home.”  Even though the locks themselves were not damaged as a result of the theft of the keys, there was nonetheless a substantial decrease in their value when the keys were stolen, because it brought into question the underlying security of the homes: “A victim can only be left to wonder whether future intrusions on the sanctity of the home may occur as a result of the stolen keys.”  The substantial decrease in the security of the homes could only be remedied by the return of the keys without them being copied, or by the rekeying of the locks. Accordingly, the decision to rekey was not an intervening event, as the locks’ substantial decrease in value could be directly attributed to the robbery.  This was true even though substantial time passed between the robbery and the decision to rekey the locks.  The judgment of the appellate court was reversed.  In reaching this decision, the court affirmatively stated that it was not relying on any tort or reasonableness standard with regard to causation: “We take this opportunity to reaffirm that importing any tort causation analysis into the direct result standard [of the restitution statute] would straightforwardly contravene the plain language of the statute.”