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People v. Stanley

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Third Division

September 7, 2017

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Steven Robert Paul Stanley, Defendant-Appellee.

         Adams County District Court No. 15CR1433 Honorable Robert W. Kiesnowski, Jr., Judge

          David J. Young, District Attorney, Cameron M. Munier, Senior Deputy District Attorney, Brighton, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellant

          Bendinelli Law Firm, PC, Mark G. Mayberry, Westminster, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellee


          FREYRE JUDGE

         ¶ 1 In this prosecution appeal of a restitution setoff, we must reconcile the dual policy interests underlying the restitution statute, § 18-1.3-603, C.R.S. 2016, of fully compensating a victim on the one hand and of precluding double recovery by the victim on the other.

         ¶ 2 The prosecution asks us to reverse the trial court's order awarding the defendant, Steven Robert Paul Stanley, a $25, 000 setoff against restitution of $30, 000, an amount paid to the victim by the Crime Victim Compensation Program (CVCP). The setoff arose from a policy-limits settlement between the victim and Stanley's automobile insurance company. Despite uncontroverted evidence of this settlement, the prosecution argues that Stanley failed to sufficiently prove entitlement to a setoff because he did not show that the settlement proceeds were "earmarked" for the same expenses reimbursed by the CVCP, leaving open the possibility that the victim used the proceeds for losses not compensated by the CVCP.

         ¶ 3 Because the level of specificity for apportioning urged by the prosecution would render meeting a defendant's burden of proving a setoff under § 18-1.3-603(3) and (8)(c)(I) impractical - and in some cases impossible - we conclude that a defendant sufficiently meets his or her burden of going forward to invoke the trial court's discretion to award a setoff by showing that the settlement included one or more categories of loss (expenses) paid by the CVCP and covered by the restitution order.

         ¶ 4 Thus, we affirm in part the trial court's ruling on apportionment. However, because the victim may have used some or all of the settlement proceeds for losses not compensated by the CVCP, we remand the case to permit the prosecution to respond by showing that the victim used or allocated settlement proceeds for losses proximately caused by Stanley's criminal conduct but which were not paid by the CVCP and covered by the restitution order. This procedure gives effect to the restitution statute's legislative intent "to make full restitution" to victims for their losses. § 18-1.3-601(1)(b), C.R.S. 2016. If the prosecution makes such a showing, the trial court should amend its restitution order by reducing the amount of the setoff.

         I. The Restitution Order

         ¶ 5 This case arises from a traffic accident that occurred on April 11, 2015. On May 7, 2015, Stanley's automobile insurer, Geico Indemnity Co. (Geico), entered into a "Release in Full of All Claims" (the Release) with the victim and her husband. Under the settlement, Geico paid the victim $25, 000 for all claims related to and stemming from the accident in exchange for a full and final release of all claims against Stanley and Geico. The Release released and forever discharged Stanley and Geico

[f]rom any and every claim, demand, right or cause of action, of whatever kind or nature, on account of or in any way growing out of any and all personal injuries and consequences thereof, including, but not limited to, all causes of action preserved by the wrongful death statute applicable, any loss of services and consortium, any injuries which may exist but which at this time are unknown and unanticipated and which may develop at some time in the future, all unforeseen developments arising from known injuries, and any and all property damage resulting or to result from an accident that occurred on or about the 11th day of April, 2015 . . . .

         ¶ 6 On February 4, 2016, Stanley pleaded guilty to felony vehicular assault, driving under the influence, and careless driving. Under the plea agreement, the trial court deferred the entry of judgment and sentence on the felony for four years, and sentenced Stanley to four years of concurrent probation on the misdemeanor convictions. The court gave the prosecution ninety days to submit a restitution request.

         ¶ 7 On May 3, 2016, the prosecution filed a motion to impose restitution and attached a report from the CVCP. It showed that the CVCP had paid the victim $30, 000, the maximum amount allowable by statute, for pecuniary losses proximately caused by Stanley's criminal conduct. See § 24-4.1-109(2)(b), C.R.S. 2016. It paid the victim $8048 for lost wages and $21, 952 for medical expenses.[1] The report stated that "[e]ach bill received by CVCP is verified to ensure that it is crime related; that no other funding source was responsible (insurance) and to verify the most up to date balance."

         ¶ 8 Believing that the insurance Release and settlement satisfied his restitution obligation, Stanley never filed an objection to the prosecution's motion for restitution. On June 14, 2016, the court granted the unopposed motion and ordered Stanley to pay the victim $30, 000 in restitution. Later that same day, Stanley filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Restitution Order, explaining his misunderstanding and requesting a hearing and a setoff. The court granted Stanley's hearing request.

         ¶ 9 At the hearing, the parties relied on two documents - the CVCP report evidencing the $30, 000 payment and the Release evidencing the $25, 000 settlement. Neither party presented any other evidence.

         ¶ 10 The prosecution argued that because the Release constituted an unapportioned settlement, Stanley bore the burden of proving that the settlement proceeds were intended to compensate the victim for the same lost wages and medical expenses compensated by the CVCP. Specifically, "[the Release] talks in no way about where this $25, 000 is to be allocated. Is it supposed to go to medical or pay for the damages to the vehicle?" Relying on People v. Lassek, 122 P.3d 1029 (Colo.App. 2005), the prosecution argued that the "entire amount could have simply gone to [nonpecuniary losses not covered by the restitution statute]" and asked the court to find that Stanley had not met his apportionment burden.

         ¶ 11 Stanley agreed that he bore the burden of establishing the existence of a setoff. He asserted that the Release "broadly apportioned" the proceeds through the language stating an intent to compensate for "any and every claim" for loss of services, as relevant to wage loss, and for personal injuries and all consequences of them, as relevant to medical expenses. He reasoned that the settlement proceeds necessarily included the medical and lost wages compensation the victim received from the CVCP. He further argued that the CVCP was remiss in failing to offset restitution by the settlement amount under § 24-4.1-110(1), C.R.S. 2016.

         ¶ 12 The trial court held that $30, 000 in restitution was reasonable, due, and owing. It further held that the Release's broad language was "all encompassing and [that] it include[d] every type of claim imaginable and any type of injury imaginable." It found the Release "contemplate[d] payment for the very same categories that are set forth in the prosecution's restitution report, " and noted that these types of releases never apportioned proceeds to specific loss categories. Therefore, it awarded Stanley a $25, 000 setoff against restitution and ordered him to pay the $5000 net amount.[2]

         II. Analysis

         ¶ 13 Relying on Lassek and People in Interest of T.R., 860 P.2d 559 (Colo.App. 1993), the prosecution urges us to reverse the court's order, arguing that the Release is an unapportioned settlement that does not "earmark" the proceeds for the same expenses compensated by the CVCP, as required by these cases. While we acknowledge that Lassek and T.R. could be read to support this argument, for the reasons described below we conclude that these cases do not require the level of specificity urged by the prosecution.[3]

         A. Standard of Review

         ¶ 14 We review a trial court's restitution award for an abuse of discretion. People v. Sieck, 2014 COA 23, ¶ 5. A trial court abuses its discretion when it misconstrues or misapplies the law, id., or when its decision fixing the amount of restitution is not supported by the record, see People v. Rivera, 968 P.2d 1061, 1068 (Colo.App. 1997). "We will not disturb the district court's determination as to the proper amount of restitution if it is supported by the record." People v. Bohn, 2015 COA 178, ¶ 8.

         ¶ 15 We review and interpret statutes de novo. People v. Padilla-Lopez, 2012 CO 49, ¶ 7. When construing statutes, we aim to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the General Assembly. Id. We accord words and phrases their plain and ordinary meanings. Id. "Where the language is clear, it is not necessary to resort to other tools of statutory construction." Goodman v. Heritage Builders, Inc., 2017 CO 13, ¶ 7.

         B. Applicable Law

         ¶ 16 As part of "[e]very order of conviction, " a trial court must order a defendant to pay restitution if the defendant's conduct caused pecuniary loss to a victim. § 18-1.3-603(1); People v. Reyes, 166 P.3d 301, 302 (Colo.App. 2007). Restitution means "any pecuniary loss suffered by a victim . . . proximately caused by an offender's conduct and that can be reasonably calculated and recompensed in money." § 18-1.3-602(3)(a), C.R.S. 2016. The General Assembly has declared restitution to be a mechanism for rehabilitating offenders, deterring future criminality, and reducing the financial burden on and compensating victims and their families for their losses. § 18-1.3-601(1)(c)-(g). The restitution statute must be liberally construed to accomplish these goals. § 18-1.3-601(2).

         ¶ 17 The court bases its restitution order on information provided by the prosecuting attorney. § 18-1.3-603(2). The prosecution bears the burden of proving the amount owed by a preponderance of the evidence, People v. Smith, 181 P.3d 324, 328 (Colo.App. 2007), while the ...

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