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State v. Blair

August 13, 2010

STATE OF IDAHO, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JOANNA C. BLAIR, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Twin Falls County. Hon. Randy J. Stoker, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gutierrez, Judge

2010 Opinion No. 57

Order for restitution, affirmed.

Joanna C. Blair appeals the district court's order for restitution, following entry of her judgment of conviction for grand theft. Specifically, Blair contends the district court violated Idaho Code Section 19-5304 and her right to due process of law when it denied her motion for a separate restitution hearing at sentencing. We affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Blair was convicted of one count of grand theft following a jury trial. The charges arose from Blair's alleged issuance of unauthorized checks to herself and others while she was employed at Snake River Glass. At sentencing, the state requested restitution in the amount presented to the jury at trial. Blair objected to the restitution amount and requested a separate restitution hearing to contest the requested restitution amount. The district court determined there was no need for a separate restitution hearing and ordered Blair to pay restitution in the amount of $5,831.43. Blair timely appeals.

II. ANALYSIS

Blair argues the district court violated her right to due process under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 13 of the Idaho State Constitution, and Idaho Code Section 19-5304, when the district court denied her motion for a separate restitution hearing. In essence, Blair argues the court deprived her of an opportunity to present evidence regarding the challenged restitution amount.

Where a defendant claims that his or her right to due process was violated, we defer to the trial court's findings of fact, if supported by substantial evidence. State v. Rossignol, 147 Idaho 818, 826, 215 P.3d 538, 546 (Ct. App. 2009); State v. Smith, 135 Idaho 712, 720, 23 P.3d 786, 794 (Ct. App. 2001). However, we freely review the application of constitutional principles to those facts found. Id. Both constitutional questions and questions of statutory interpretation are questions of law over which this Court exercises free review. Federated Publ'ns, Inc. v. Idaho Bus. Rev., Inc., 146 Idaho 207, 210, 192 P.3d 1031, 1034 (2008).

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that no state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." The right to procedural due process guaranteed under both the Idaho and United States Constitutions requires that a person involved in the judicial process be given meaningful notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard. Rudd v. Rudd, 105 Idaho 112, 115, 666 P.2d 639, 642 (1983). Due process requires that judicial proceedings be fundamentally fair. Lassiter v. Dep't of Soc. Serv. of Durham Cty., North Carolina, 452 U.S. 18, 24-25 (1981). Procedural due process is not a rigid concept but, rather, it "is flexible and calls for such procedural protections as the particular situation demands." Aeschliman v. State, 132 Idaho 397, 402, 973 P.2d 749, 754 (Ct. App. 1999).

Idaho Code Section 19-5304(6) provides that restitution orders "shall be entered by the court at the time of sentencing or such later date as deemed necessary by the court." The statutory language clearly gives the court discretion as to when it may order restitution. That statute further provides:

Economic loss shall be based upon the preponderance of evidence submitted to the court by the prosecutor, defendant, victim or presentence investigator. Each party shall have the right to present such evidence as may be relevant to the issue of restitution, and the court may consider such hearsay as may be contained in the presentence report, victim impact statement or otherwise provided to the court.

(emphasis added). Nowhere does the statute state a separate restitution hearing is required. The statute only provides that each party has the right to present such evidence as may be relevant to the issue of restitution. Therefore, if a defendant is given meaningful notice and opportunity to present evidence that is relevant to the issue of restitution during the trial and/or sentencing hearing, then the purpose of Idaho Code Section 19-5304(6) is satisfied, as is due process. In this case, Blair does not argue the "notice" component of due process. Thus, the only issue is whether Blair received an opportunity to present evidence relevant to the issue of restitution.

Blair chose to present evidence relevant to the issue of restitution at trial, where a jury listened to three days of testimony and ultimately convicted Blair of grand theft. The co-owners of Snake River Glass and Blair's office manager testified and provided evidence that Blair made unauthorized adjustments to her pay, wrote unauthorized checks to herself and others, and took funds she was not entitled to or authorized to take from the business in the amount of $5,831.43. In response to the evidence presented by the state, Blair took the stand to refute all allegations that she took money from the company that she was not owed. Specifically, Blair went through timecards, checks, and ...


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