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State of Idaho v. Daniel Ryan Straub

January 7, 2013

STATE OF IDAHO, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
DANIEL RYAN STRAUB, 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: Burdick, Chief Justice

2013 Opinion No. 2

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

District court decision on restitution, reversed and remanded.

This case comes before this Court on an appeal from the district court's order of restitution against Daniel Straub (Straub). Straub pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter, and as part of the plea, agreed to pay restitution for victims under I.C. § 18-4007 and I.C. § 19-5304. After a restitution hearing, the district court determined that Straub owed $554,506.67 to the decedent's surviving family, primarily for future medical insurance premiums and for five years of lost wages. We reverse the decision of the district court.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On June 25, 2009, Straub, while driving his pick-up truck, struck and killed a bicyclist, David Webster (Decedent). The Decedent was survived by his wife (Charlene), a minor child, and a son over the age of eighteen. A blood draw taken after the accident showed Straub to have a .08 BAC. In the Information, Straub was charged with a felony for driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, which was a significant cause contributing to the Decedent's death in violation of I.C. § 18-4006(3)(b). In the alternative, Straub was charged with gross negligence in the commission of an unlawful act in violation of I.C. § 18-4006(3)(a).

As part of the preliminary matters, the district court denied Straub's motion to suppress the blood testing evidence. A jury trial was set for April 6, 2010, but was reset for June 22, 2010. On June 17, 2010, Straub signed a guilty plea agreement, pleading guilty to "vehicular manslaughter per gross negligence." In exchange, the State agreed to recommend that Straub receive a jail term of three to eight years, a fine to be determined by the district court, and be ordered to pay restitution for crime victims pursuant to I.C. §§ 19-5304 and 18-4007. The plea also had a provision that:

By accepting this offer the Defendant waives his right to appeal any issues regarding the conviction, including all matters involving the plea or sentencing and any rulings made by the court, including all suppression issues.

Excepting however the Defendant may appeal the sentence if the Court exceeds the State's sentencing recommendation of the 'Jail/Prison terms' set forth above.

A hearing on restitution was held on August 9, 2010, and the district court issued its Memorandum Opinion Re: Restitution on August 20, 2010. In its decision, the district court ordered Straub to pay: $23,809.47 for funeral, counseling, and medical insurance premiums paid to date plus legal expenses; $530,697.20 for future medical insurance premiums and lost wages; and additional counseling costs determined pursuant to a separate order. An Order of Restitution totaling $554,506.67 was entered by the district court on August 27, 2010. At the August 23, 2010 sentencing hearing, Straub was sentenced to eight years in jail, three years fixed, and a $5,000 fine in addition to the previously determined restitution.

Straub filed an Objection to Order of Restitution on September 3, 2010. In it, Straub argued that the district court unreasonably or illegally interpreted the restitution statutes. After a hearing on the issue, the district court denied Straub's objection on September 17, 2010. Straub timely filed a Notice of Appeal on October 4, 2010.

II. ISSUES ON APPEAL

1. Whether Straub waived his right to appeal the district court's restitution order.

2. Whether the district court abused its discretion by ordering Straub to pay restitution for the victim's lost wages.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"The district court's factual findings with regard to restitution will not be disturbed on appeal if supported by substantial evidence." State v. Corbus, 150 Idaho 599, 602, 249 P.3d 398, 401 (2011). Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion. Kinney v. Tupperware Co., 117 Idaho 765, 769, 792 P.2d 330, 334 (1990). "A plea agreement is contractual in nature, must be measured by contract law standards, and as a question of law, this Court exercises free review." State v. Cope, 142 Idaho 492, 495, 129 P.3d 1241, 1244 (2006) (citing Dunlap v. State, 141 Idaho 50, 63, 106 P.3d 376, 389 (2004)). Additionally, "[s]tatutory interpretation is a question of law over which this Court exercises free review." State v. Stover, 140 Idaho 927, 929, 104 P.3d 969, 971 (2005).

IV. ANALYSIS

A. Straub did not waive his right to appeal the district court's ...


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