Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, October 27, 2023


Page 3


C.A. Says Restitution Award Was Unreasonable


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A judge went too far in ordering a man who stole a stuffed ram’s head, that was never recovered, to pay the owner $6,000 in restitution for the cost of the hunting trip in Texas roughly 10 years earlier during which he shot the male bighorn sheep, the Third District Court of Appeal has held.

Its decision came on Wednesday in an opinion by Presiding Justice Laurie M. Earl. It affirms, as modified, a judgment by retired Butte Superior Court Judge Steven J. Howell, sitting on assignment to the Placer Superior Court.

Defendant/appellant Jeffrey Nels Michael LaRoche did not contest the award to victim Antonio Davila for his expenditure of $1,500 in having the head taxidermized but did balk, on appeal, at the order to recompense Davila for what he spent on the hunting excursion.

Earl noted that Penal Code §1202.4 dictates that “in every case in which a victim has suffered economic loss as a result of the defendant’s conduct, the court shall require that the defendant make restitution to the victim or victims in an amount established by court order, based on the amount of loss claimed by the victim or victims or any other showing to the court” and that “[t]he court shall order full restitution.”

She wrote:

“While a victim’s right to restitution is to be broadly and liberally construed, the Legislature has imposed a limitation on victim restitution that the loss must be an ‘economic loss’ incurred as a result of the defendant’s criminal conduct….Here, defendant’s criminal conduct that deprived Davila of the ram’s mount did nothing to deprive Davila of the financial value of the hunting trip itself. We do not construe the statute’s reference to losses resulting from the defendant’s criminal conduct so expansive as to encompass the costs of the experience in procuring the stolen property. We thus hold that the value of the property in this case, i.e., the ‘economic loss,’ does not include the costs attendant to procuring the ram; the trial court erred in concluding otherwise.”

The case is People v. LaRoche, 2023 S.O.S. 3959.


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