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State v. Stewart

Court of Appeals of Idaho

November 9, 2016

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
ROBERT EUGENE STEWART, Defendant-Appellant.

         2016 Opinion No. 71

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Samuel A. Hoagland, District Judge.

         Order for restitution, affirmed.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, Interim State Appellate Public Defender; Reed P. Anderson, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Mark W. Olson, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

          MELANSON, Chief Judge

         Robert Eugene Stewart appeals from the district court's order for restitution following Stewart's plea of guilty to operating a vehicle without the owner's consent. Stewart argues that the district court abused its discretion in ordering Stewart to pay restitution for vehicle repairs. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

         Pursuant to a plea agreement, Stewart pled guilty to operating a vehicle without the owner's consent, I.C. § 49-227, and agreed to pay restitution for damages caused when he drove the vehicle through a fence. At the restitution hearing, the State presented testimony from an employee of the owner of the vehicle, and produced documentation supporting the estimated repair costs for the vehicle. Stewart objected to the auto body shop's estimate of the costs, arguing that the estimate was not relevant evidence. Following a hearing, the district court ordered restitution. Stewart appeals.[1]

         Idaho Code Section 19-5304(2) authorizes a sentencing court to order a defendant to pay restitution for economic loss to the victim of a crime. The decision of whether to order restitution, and in what amount, is within the discretion of a trial court, guided by consideration of the factors set forth in I.C. § 19-5304(7) and by the policy favoring full compensation to crime victims who suffer economic loss. State v. Richmond, 137 Idaho 35, 37, 43 P.3d 794, 796 (Ct. App. 2002); State v. Bybee, 115 Idaho 541, 543, 768 P.2d 804, 806 (Ct. App. 1989). Thus, we will not overturn an order of restitution unless an abuse of discretion is shown. Richmond, 137 Idaho at 37, 43 P.3d at 796. When a trial court's discretionary decision is reviewed on appeal, the appellate court conducts a multi-tiered inquiry to determine whether the lower court correctly perceived the issue as one of discretion, acted within the boundaries of such discretion and consistently with any legal standards applicable to the specific choices before it, and reached its decision by an exercise of reason. State v. Hedger, 115 Idaho 598, 600, 768 P.2d 1331, 1333 (1989).

         To meet the second and third requirements of this analysis, the trial court must base the amount of restitution upon the preponderance of evidence submitted by the prosecutor, defendant, victim, or presentence investigator. I.C. § 19-5304(6); State v. Lombard, 149 Idaho 819, 822, 242 P.3d 189, 192 (Ct. App. 2010). Thus, the state must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, a causal relationship between the defendant's criminal conduct and the damages suffered by the victim. I.C. § 19-5304(7); State v. Corbus, 150 Idaho 599, 602, 249 P.3d 398, 401 (2011); State v. Hill, 154 Idaho 206, 212, 296 P.3d 412, 418 (Ct. App. 2012).

         The determination of the amount of restitution, which includes the issue of causation, is a question of fact for the trial court. Corbus, 150 Idaho at 602, 249 P.3d at 401; State v. Hamilton, 129 Idaho 938, 943, 935 P.2d 201, 206 (Ct. App. 1997). The district court's factual findings with regard to restitution will not be disturbed on appeal if supported by substantial evidence. Corbus, 150 Idaho at 602, 249 P.3d at 401; Lombard, 149 Idaho at 822, 242 P.3d at 192. Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion. State v. Straub, 153 Idaho 882, 885, 292 P.3d 273, 276 (2013).

         On appeal, Stewart argues that the district court erred when it admitted the estimate for the vehicle repair costs over his objection. Stewart asserts that the estimate was prepared for a different vehicle and therefore was not relevant evidence to consider at the restitution hearing.

         The Idaho Rules of Evidence generally apply to restitution hearings. I.R.E. 101(d)(7); see also I.C. § 19-5304(6) (parties shall have the right to present such evidence as may be relevant to the issue of restitution). To be admissible, evidence is required to be relevant. I.R.E. 402. Evidence that is relevant to a material and disputed issue concerning the crime charged is generally admissible. State v. Stevens, 146 Idaho 139, 143, 191 P.3d 217, 221 (2008). Evidence is relevant if it has any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence. I.R.E. 401; Stevens, 146 Idaho at 143, 191 P.3d at 221. Whether a fact is of consequence or material is determined by its relationship to the legal theories presented by the parties. State v. Johnson, 148 Idaho 664, 671, 227 P.3d 918, 925 (2010). We review questions of relevance de novo. State v. Raudebaugh, 124 Idaho 758, 764, 864 P.2d 596, 602 (1993); State v. Aguilar, 154 Idaho 201, 203, 296 P.3d 407, 409 (Ct. App. 2012).

         Stewart's argument on appeal is premised on the contention that the estimate presented by the State at the restitution hearing was for a vehicle different than the one Stewart drove into the fence. Although the district court did not make a specific finding that the vehicle referenced in the estimate was the same vehicle driven by Stewart, such a finding is supported by the record and is implicit in the district court's ruling that the estimate was relevant. See State v. Floyd, 159 Idaho 370, 372, 360 P.3d 379, 381 (Ct. App. 2015) (appellate courts are required to examine the record to ...

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