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National Crime Victim Law Institute

State v. Patel, --- P.3d ---, No. LC2018-00191-001, 2019 WL 5382503 (Ariz. Ct. App. Oct. 22, 2019)

November 22, 2019

Defendant, convicted of violating a statute that criminalizes moving violations that cause serious physical injury or death, was ordered by the municipal court to pay $61,191.99 in restitution to the victim.  On appeal, the superior court reversed on the ground that the restitution amount exceeds the restitution cap set forth in the statute.  The state appealed to the Arizona Court of Appeals, and the court reversed, holding that the statute’s restitution cap is unconstitutional.  In reaching its holding, the court observed that the Arizona Constitution guarantees a victim’s right to “prompt restitution” from the convicted offender.  The court determined that it must presume that the voters who passed the constitutional amendment in 1990 were aware that the restitution statute in effect at the time of the amendment required courts to award restitution “in the full amount of” a victim’s economic loss.  In so determining, the court rejected defendant’s argument that the statutory cap is a proper exercise of the legislature’s authority to define, implement, preserve and/or protect victims’ constitutional rights, in part, because a cap does not advance victims’ right to restitution.  The court also rejected defendant’s argument that recognizing a constitutional right to full restitution would deny a criminal defendant’s constitutional right to have a civil jury determine the victim’s claim for damages.  For these reasons, the court concluded that the constitutional right to prompt restitution “implicates the full restoration of a victim’s economic loss.”  Accordingly, the court reversed the superior court’s order and reinstated the municipal court’s restitution order.