Saturday, October 25, 2008

Court Reaffirms Narrow Reach of Restitution Provision

Who has a right of restitution under Article I, Section 28(b)? In People v. Slattery (here), the defendant injured her mother, who was taken to the hospital and died ten days later. The trial court ordered the defendant pursuant to the restitution statutes to repay the hospital for the cost of treating her mother. The Court of Appeal held that this was impermissible because the restitution statutes provide relief only to "direct victims" of criminal activity, and the hospital was not a direct victim.

The state argued that the restitution statutes had to have a broader reach, because Article I, Section 28(b), which grants the right to restitution to “all persons who suffer losses as a result of criminal activity.” However, the Court of Appeal held that the California Supreme Court had rejected this argument in People v. Birkett, 21 Cal. 4th 226 (1999). There the Court held that the Legislature’s decision to limit the right to restitution to business and governmental entities that are “direct victims” constitutes “a plausible interpretation of th[is] constitutional provision.” Consequently, courts must accept the Legislature's determination.

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