Law School Case Brief
In re Brittany L. - 99 Cal. App. 4th 1381, 122 Cal. Rptr. 2d 376 (2002)
A court may use any rational method of fixing an amount of restitution, provided it is reasonably calculated to make the victim whole, and provided it is consistent with the purpose of rehabilitation. In doing so sentencing judges are given virtually unlimited discretion as to the kind of information they can consider and the source from whence it comes. This is so because a hearing to establish the amount of restitution does not require the formalities of other phases of a criminal prosecution. In the restitution context, it is not necessary to determine the damages which might be recoverable in a civil action. While the amount of restitution cannot be arbitrary or capricious, there is no requirement the restitution order be limited to the exact amount of the loss in which the defendant is actually found culpable, nor is there any requirement the order reflect the amount of damages that might be recoverable in a civil action.
Defendant Brittany L., a juvenile, was charged pursuant to Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 602 with vandalizing her next-door-neighbors' home on Halloween by throwing eggs on their property. Brittany L. was found guilty and placed on probation. The trial court held a restitution hearing. Brittany L. challenged the amount to resurface the driveway as both unnecessary and excessively expensive. However, she was not allowed to put on her defense. The trial court ordered victim restitution of $ 500, the amount of the victims' insurance deductible. Brittany L. challenged the order.
Did the trial court err in failing to order victim restitution without regard to potential third party reimbursement, as well as in failing to consider the defendant juvenile's proffered evidence challenging the necessity and amount of the victims' claimed repair costs?
The court of appeal held the trial court erred in failing to order victim restitution without regard to potential third-party reimbursement, as well as in failing to consider Brittany L.'s proffered evidence challenging the necessity and amount of the victims' claimed repair costs; thus, the trial court did not comply with the statutory directives of Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 730.6, which expressly allow a minor to challenge the amount of the victims' claimed loss. Moreover, the trial court improperly denied appellant juvenile the right to have the court consider her evidence in "determining" the proper amount of restitution to be awarded.
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