2015 Opinion No. 34
Appeal from the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Bingham County. Hon. Darren B. Simpson, District Judge.
The judgment of the district court is affirmed.
Sara B. Thomas, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.
Honorable Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.
J. JONES, Justice. Chief Justice BURDICK, and Justices EISMANN, W. JONES and HORTON CONCUR.
J. JONES, Justice.
Kenny Carl Struhs pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter, was sentenced to a unified term of fifteen years in prison with ten years fixed, and was ordered to pay restitution to the victim's widow, including an amount compensating her for health insurance premiums she paid for coverage between the time of the accident and the time of Struhs' sentencing. On appeal, Struhs challenged the sentence as excessively harsh and the award of restitution for insurance premiums as unauthorized under Idaho Code section 19-5304. We affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On August 2, 2012, Kenny Carl Struhs was invited to the home of a friend for a barbecue in Blackfoot. Struhs had five or six beers before arriving at the barbecue and had five to seven more once there. Later, Struhs was involved in a confrontation and left in his vehicle. He entered an intersection without observing a stop sign and collided with a motorcycle driven by Brent Hansen, with Brent's six-year-old daughter, Abigail Hansen, a passenger. Struhs left the scene of the accident and nearly struck two pedestrians before he attempted a U-turn at a dead end and lost control of his vehicle. While Abigail suffered relatively minor injuries, Brent did not survive. A blood test determined that Struhs had a blood alcohol concentration of .157.
Struhs was charged with two felonies--leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury or death under Idaho Code section 18-8007 and vehicular manslaughter, alternately, under Idaho Code section 18-4006(3)(a) or (b). After initially pleading not guilty to both charges, Struhs later reached an agreement with the State pursuant to which he pleaded guilty to a violation of Idaho Code section 18-4006(3)(b), vehicular manslaughter resulting from driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or any other intoxicating substance. In exchange, the State agreed to dismiss the charge of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury or death. The agreement did not address sentencing. On March 12, 2013, the district court sentenced Struhs to a unified term of fifteen years in prison with ten years fixed. The district court entered judgment and dismissed the charge of leaving the scene of an accident.
The State sought restitution in the amount of $53,406.04 on behalf of Brent's widow, Emilie Hansen, pursuant to Idaho Code section 19-5304. That amount included $761.85 for premiums paid by Emilie for health insurance coverage for December 2012 to February 2013. The State argued that restitution for the premiums was appropriate because Emilie lost her coverage under the plan sponsored by Brent's employer and was forced to purchase a more expensive individual plan. Struhs objected to various elements of the State's restitution request, including the amount to compensate Emilie for insurance premiums. Following a hearing, the district court ordered Struhs to pay restitution in the amount of $51,651.54, including medical expenses, a portion of the
requested funeral expenses, lost wages, and $761.85 for Emilie's insurance premiums.
Struhs timely appealed and the case was initially assigned to the Court of Appeals. He made two arguments there. First, he argued that the district court abused its discretion when it ordered restitution for Emilie's insurance premiums.  Second, he argued that the district court abused its discretion by imposing an excessively harsh sentence in light of his remorse and substance abuse problem. The Court of Appeals held that the district ...