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State v. Shears

Supreme Court of Iowa

November 30, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,
DARRYL B. SHEARS JR., Appellant.

          On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Mary E. Howes, Judge.

         Darryl Shears Jr. seeks further review of an order requiring him to pay restitution. DECISION OF COURT OF APPEALS AND JUDGMENT OF DISTRICT COURT AFFIRMED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, Ashley Stewart and Shellie L. Knipfer, Assistant Appellate Defenders, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Israel Kodiaga and Kelli A. Huser (until withdrawal), Assistant Attorneys General, Michael J. Walton, County Attorney, and Joshua R. Sims and Kelly G. Cunningham, Assistant County Attorneys, for appellee.

          APPEL, Justice.

         In this case, we consider whether the City of Davenport is entitled to restitution for damage to patrol vehicles in a criminal case. The defendant pled guilty to criminal mischief and eluding an officer. After acceptance of the guilty plea, the city filed a restitution claim totaling approximately $7, 093 for damage to its police vehicles. The district court determined that the damages sought by the city were a result of the defendant's criminal activity and ordered the defendant to pay restitution to the city.

         For the reasons expressed below, we affirm.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background.

         The State charged Darryl Shears with three crimes: criminal mischief in the second degree in violation of Iowa Code sections 716.1 and 716.4(1) (2015), possession of a controlled substance, second offense, in violation of Iowa Code section 124.401(5), and eluding while participating in a public offense in violation of Iowa Code section 321.279(3)(a).

         Pursuant to a plea agreement, Shears pled guilty to criminal mischief and to eluding under Iowa Code section 321.279(2), a lesser included offense of the original charge of eluding while participating in a public offense.

         After the court accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Shears, the district court held a restitution hearing. At the restitution hearing, the district court found that Shears had to reimburse the State for damages to the patrol vehicles in the amount of approximately $7, 093. On appeal, Shears challenges the restitution ruling of the district court.

         II. Standard of Review.

         Restitution orders are reviewed for errors of law. State v. Dubois, 888 N.W.2d 52, 53 (Iowa 2016); State v. Jenkins, 788 N.W.2d 640, 642 (Iowa 2010); State v. Klawonn, 688 N.W.2d 271, 274 (Iowa 2004). On appeal, we are bound by the district court's findings of fact so long as they are supported by substantial evidence. State v. Paxton, 674 N.W.2d 106, 108 (Iowa 2004). The district court is afforded broad discretion in determining the amount of restitution when the record contains proof of a reasonable basis from which the amount may be inferred. See State v. Watts, 587 N.W.2d 750, 752 (Iowa 1998).

         III. Discussion.

         A. Introduction.

         Restitution as part of a criminal action is a relatively recent development in the law. Traditionally, recovery of damages sustained by victims was not part of the criminal proceeding. A victim who suffered economic harm as a result of a crime was required to pursue recovery in a civil action. With the spread of the victim's rights movement in the 1980s, legislatures-including Iowa's-enacted statutes that provided for at least partial recovery by victims of economic harm as restitution in the sentencing phase of the criminal proceeding. See Jenkins, 788 N.W.2d at 642. In addition to state criminal restitution statutes, the Victim and Witness Protection Act and the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act have provided for criminal restitution in federal proceedings. Id.; see 18 U.S.C. §§ 3663-3663A (2012).

         The purpose of these criminal restitution statutes is said to include protecting the public by compensating victims for criminal activities and rehabilitating the offender by instilling responsibility in the offender. See State v. Izzolena, 609 N.W.2d 541, 548 (Iowa 2000); State v. Kluesner, 389 N.W.2d 370, 372 (Iowa 1986).

         Analytically, criminal restitution is an odd duck that is hard to categorize. See State v. Mayberry, 415 N.W.2d 644, 646 (Iowa 1987) (noting that it is not entirely clear whether an order of restitution is a fine, a civil claim, or a hybrid). It arises in the context of a criminal proceeding designed to punish the offender. See Jenkins, 788 N.W.2d at 643 (stating that restitution under Iowa Code chapter 910 is a "criminal sanction"); State v. Holmberg, 449 N.W.2d 376, 377 n.1 (Iowa 1989) (noting tort and criminal purposes). As a result, criminal restitution obligations have been held nondischargeable in bankruptcy. Kelly v. Robinson, 479 U.S. 36, 44- 53, 107 S.Ct. 353, 358-63 (1986). Further, restitution is subject to the Excessive Fines Clauses of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution and article I, section 17 of the Iowa Constitution. Izzolena, 609 N.W.2d at 549; see also Paroline v. United States, 572 U.S. 434, 455- 56, 134 S.Ct. 1710, 1725-26 (2014) (stating that restitution may come within the purview of the Excessive Fines Clause because it is imposed by the government after a criminal conviction and serves punitive purposes). Yet, criminal restitution seeks to provide compensation to those damaged by the defendant's conduct, ordinarily a civil goal. See Mayberry, 415 N.W.2d at 645-46. There has been a tug-of-war among commentators whether to characterize restitution as criminal, and thus subject to generally narrow construction, or civil, and thereby subject to a more generous remedial interpretation but arguably subject to defenses available in civil actions.[1] See Bridgett N. Shephard, Note & Comment, Classifying Crime Victim Restitution: The Theoretical Arguments and Practical Consequences of Labeling Restitution as Either a Criminal or Civil Law Concept, 18 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 801, 802-03, 808 (2014).

         Because of the ambiguous nature of restitution, the courts have struggled with questions related to the scope of criminal restitution. Among other things, courts have pondered on the question of who is a "victim" for purposes of criminal restitution. For example, one of the frequently litigated issues is whether a government entity may be considered a victim for purposes of criminal restitution. See generally Kimberly J. Winbush, Annotation, Persons or Entities Entitled to Restitution as "Victim" Under State Criminal Restitution Statute, 92 A.L.R. 5th 35 (2001). Similarly, courts have grappled with the question of whether causation in criminal restitution matters should be narrowly limited to causation ordinarily applied in criminal cases or whether the causation required for criminal restitution should be the same as that in an ordinary civil action. Ultimately, the questions of determining who is a victim of the crime and of causation raise questions of statutory interpretation. This case requires us to consider these questions in the context of the Iowa statutory framework establishing criminal restitution.[2]

         B. Iowa Criminal Restitution Framework.

         We now turn to the language and structure of the Iowa criminal restitution statute, Iowa Code chapter 910. See McGill v. Fish, 790 N.W.2d 113, 118 (Iowa 2010) ("[T]he statute in dispute is our starting point . . . .").

         At the outset, the Iowa criminal restitution statute provides that in all cases where the defendant pled or is found guilty, the sentencing court "shall order that restitution be made by each offender to the victims of the offender's criminal activities." Iowa Code § 910.2(1). The imposition of restitution in a criminal matter is thus a mandatory requirement of Iowa law. State v. Jackson, 601 N.W.2d 354, 356 (Iowa 1999); Watts, 587 N.W.2d at 751. Determining the amount of restitution, however, is in the sound discretion of the court. See Watts, 587 N.W.2d at 752; State v. Blank, 570 N.W.2d 924, 926-27 (Iowa 1997) (per curiam); State v. Haines, 360 N.W.2d 791, 797 (Iowa 1985).

         The burden is on the state to show entitlement to criminal restitution. See State v. Tutor, 538 N.W.2d 894, 897 (Iowa 1995). An offender may challenge the amount of restitution sought by the county attorney, including challenging a determination of an amount to be paid to a victim by the "Crime Victim Compensation Program." Jenkins, 788 N.W.2d at 646. Mere presentation of a bill from a third party does not establish damages sustained by a victim. State v. Bonstetter, 637 N.W.2d 161, 169-70 (Iowa 2001). The state must produce evidence on the amount of damages sought in restitution. Holmberg, 449 N.W.2d at 377-78.

         The total amount of restitution, however, is not immediately payable as in a civil judgment, but instead is subject to an order or payment based on ability to pay. The limitation of payment of restitution according to ability to pay removes restitution from a facial challenge as an excessive fine. See Goodrich v. State, 608 N.W.2d 774, 776 (Iowa 2000); State v. Wagner, 484 N.W.2d 212');">484 N.W.2d 212, 216 (Iowa Ct. App. 1992).

         The legislature provided a number of interlocking definitions in the statute to delineate the scope of mandatory criminal restitution. The legislature provided a definition of "pecuniary damages" available to a victim in Iowa Code section 910.1(3). The provision states that pecuniary damages means "all damages . . . which a victim could recover against the offender in a civil action arising out of the same facts or event." Iowa Code § 910.1(3). The provision also provides that, "[w]ithout limitation, 'pecuniary damages' includes damages for wrongful death and expenses incurred for psychiatric or psychological services or counseling or other counseling for the victim which became necessary as a direct result of the criminal activity." Id. The provision provides, however, that the term "pecuniary damages" does not include damages paid by an insurer on an insurance claim by the victim; punitive damages; and damages for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and loss of consortium. Id.

         The relationship between an award of criminal restitution for pecuniary damages for "all damages . . . which a victim could recover against the offender in a civil action arising out of the same facts or event," id., and any subsequent civil action is addressed in Iowa Code section 910.8. According to this section, a victim, after receiving criminal restitution, may bring a subsequent action for damages against the offender. Id. § 910.8. Any award of criminal restitution, however, is an offset against any subsequent civil judgment that the victim might obtain. Id.; see Teggatz v. Ringleb, 610 N.W.2d 527, 530-32 (Iowa 2000).

         The legislature provided a definition of "restitution." Iowa Code § 910.1(4). According to this provision, restitution means "payment of pecuniary damages to a victim in an amount and in the manner provided by the offender's plan of restitution." Id. In addition, the legislature declares that restitution includes various fines, surcharges, penalties, costs, and "payment of restitution to public agencies pursuant to section 321J.2, subsection 13, paragraph 'b.'" Id.

         Iowa Code section 321J.2(13)(b) provides that a court "may" order restitution paid to any public agency for the cost of emergency response resulting from drunk driving violations. Id. § 321J.2(13)(b). The provision defines emergency response as "any incident requiring response by fire fighting, law enforcement, ambulance, medical, or other emergency services." Id. The amount of restitution that may be recovered for emergency response in drunk driving cases is capped at $500 per public agency. Id. The provision directs that "[a] public agency seeking such restitution shall consult with the county attorney regarding the expenses incurred by the public agency, and the county attorney may include the expenses in the statement of pecuniary damages pursuant to section 910.3." Id.

         The legislature also provided a definition of "victim" in Iowa Code section 910.1(5). Generally, a victim is defined as "a person who has suffered pecuniary damages as a result of the offender's criminal activities." Id. § 910.1(5). Finally, section 910.1(5) provides that the crime victim compensation program is not an insurer and that its right of subrogation does not "prohibit" restitution to the program. Id.

         We have stated that because criminal restitution is penal in nature, the provisions of Iowa Code chapter 910 should be interpreted strictly. See Bonstetter, 637 N.W.2d at 166. We have also stated in passing that the rule of lenity is applicable to criminal restitution. See State v. Hagen, 840 N.W.2d 140, 146 (Iowa 2013). Yet, we have suggested that it is appropriate to consider a broader interpretation of restitution provisions because the purpose of the statute is to protect the public. See Kluesner, 389 N.W.2d at 372-73. We have thus held, for example, that the ...

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