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State v. Nelson

Supreme Court of Idaho

February 27, 2017

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JAMIE LEE NELSON aka RINEHART, Defendant-Appellant.

         2017 Opinion No. 20

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Lynn G. Norton, District Judge.

         District court award of restitution, vacated.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant. Brian R. Dickson, Deputy State Appellate Public Defender argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Kenneth K. Jorgensen argued.

          BURDICK, Chief Justice.

         Jamie Nelson appeals the Ada County district court's award of restitution entered under Idaho Code section 37-2732(k). The Idaho Court of Appeals vacated the restitution award, and we granted the State's timely petition for review. Because we conclude the State failed to support its request for restitution with sufficient evidence, we vacate the restitution award.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In June 2012, Nelson and her husband were charged with (1) possession of a controlled substance and paraphernalia; and (2) injury to child. They stood trial together. The first trial ended in a mistrial after the State presented evidence the district court had ordered inadmissible. A second trial was held in September 2012, and Nelson and her husband were both convicted of the drug-related charges but acquitted of the injury to child charges.

         At Nelson's sentencing hearing, the State sought to recoup its prosecution costs under Idaho Code section 37-2732(k) and requested $4, 746. That amount reflects 33.9 hours of work billed at $140 per hour. Although a restitution hearing was never held, the district court awarded $2, 535 under Idaho Code section 37-2732(k). The award reflects 39 hours[1] of work billed at $65 per hour. The district court declined to base the award on the State's request for $140 per hour, reasoning instead that $65 per hour was reasonable. Nelson appealed, and the State conceded it had not presented sufficient evidence to support the restitution award. State v. Nelson, No. 40493, 2014 WL 708467, at *3-4 (Ct. App. Feb. 21, 2014). The Court of Appeals vacated the award and remanded the case for a restitution hearing. Id.

         On remand, the district court held a restitution hearing and permitted the parties to submit written arguments. The State submitted an unsworn written statement, entitled "Statement of Costs and Request for Restitution in a Drug Case" (Statement of Costs), as evidence of its prosecution costs.[2] Again, the State requested $4, 746. Nelson objected that the State's award (1) would punish her for exercising her Sixth Amendment rights to stand trial and present a defense under the U.S. Constitution; (2) did not demonstrate that costs for the mistrial were excluded; (3) did not delineate costs incurred to prosecute Nelson's husband; (4) did not demonstrate that the State's costs incurred on acquitted injury to child charges were excluded; and (5) was excessive because it did not accurately reflect the prosecutor's rate of pay.

         At the restitution hearing, the district court noted that the Statement of Costs was "not sworn." Even so, the district court rejected Nelson's arguments and awarded $4, 746 to the State. The district court assessed the award jointly and severally against Nelson and her husband. Nelson filed another appeal.

         On its second review of the award, the Court of Appeals vacated the award. Again, the Court of Appeals held that insufficient evidence supported the award. The Court of Appeals faulted the district court for doing essentially the same thing it did before the first appeal- basing the award on unsworn representations. Thus, the Court of Appeals declined to remand the case because the State "already had an additional opportunity to provide substantial and competent evidence as support for the restitution award." Id. The Court of Appeals declined to reach Nelson's constitutional and vindictive sentencing arguments, finding the evidentiary issue dispositive. We granted the State's timely petition for review.

         II. ...


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