Friday, March 6, 2009
C.A.: Court Cannot Order Return of Dog as Restitution
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A dog is not a proper subject of restitution, this district’s Court of Appeal has ruled.
Div. Three reversed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Cynthia Rayvis’ order awarding Lorena Meza possession of a dog as restitution from her ex-boyfriend as an abuse of discretion in an unpublished opinion Wednesday.
Meza and Aaron Wiener began dating in April 2006. They lived together at Wiener’s condominium until the relationship ended in January 2007.
About two months later, Meza claimed Wiener had approached her in a stairwell at her workplace while she was holding her laptop computer in her hands.
She said that she felt Wiener touch her and she fell, suffering bruises and scratches. Wiener took the computer, but it was subsequently returned.
Wiener told the police that he went to Meza’s workplace and took the computer to retrieve software he had installed on it.
As a result of the stairway incident, an information was filed charging Wiener with second degree robbery and corporal injury to a cohabitant. He entered a no contest plea to the corporal injury charge and was sentenced to five years probation.
During the restitution hearing, Meza testified that Wiener had her dog, Charlie. She said that she had paid $1,000 for the dog, and that Charlie had lived with them when they lived together.
Meza could not recall if Charlie had come with her when she moved out of Wiener’s apartment, but she maintained that she had asked Wiener to return the dog to her and Wiener had refused.
She also requested replacement software and a new laptop, claiming that her computer did not work after Wiener returned it.
Rayvis found that Charlie belonged to Meza and ordered the dog returned to her. The judge also awarded Meza $320 for new software and $1,215.15 for a replacement computer.
Writing for the appellate court, Justice Richard D. Aldrich noted that the right to restitution under the California Constitution is limited to a dollar amount sufficient to fully reimburse a victim for economic losses incurred as a result of a defendant’s criminal conduct.
Although the right to restitution has been broadly and liberally construed, Aldrich reasoned that restitution pertains only to monetary amounts.
“Statutory examples of losses subject to restitution include the value of stolen or damaged property; medical expenses; wages or profits lost due to injury incurred or lost by the victim,” he wrote. “The dog does not fall under these statutory examples nor can the examples be broadly interpreted to include a dog.”
Presiding Justice Joan D. Klein and Justice Patti S. Kitching joined Aldrich in his opinion.
Donald B. Marks and Elizabeth A. Marks of Marks & Brooklier represented Wiener on appeal, while Deputy Attorneys General Susan Sullivan Pithey, Stacy S. Schwartz and Carlos Dominquez represented the state.
The case is People v. Wiener, B206604.
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company