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People v. Ray

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Fourth Division

November 15, 2018

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Matthew James Ray, Defendant-Appellant.

          El Paso County District Court No. 09CR254 Honorable Robert L. Lowrey, Judge

          Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, Majid Yazdi, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee

          Megan A. Ring, Colorado State Public Defender, Tracy C. Renner, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant

          OPINION

          BERNARD, JUDGE

         ¶ 1 When a statute says that a defendant owes interest at a rate of 12% per annum on his restitution obligation, does that mean that the Colorado Judicial Department can only require him to make one interest payment per year? Defendant, Matthew James Ray, thinks so. We do not.

         ¶ 2 Our story begins with a letter sent by the Judicial Department in July 2015. It said that the Judicial Department would begin charging defendant interest at "1% per month" on any outstanding restitution balance. He responded by asking the trial court for an order declaring that the Judicial Department did not have the statutory authority to charge him monthly interest. The trial court declined.

         ¶ 3 Defendant appealed. We affirm.

         I. Background

         ¶ 4 A jury convicted defendant of second degree assault. The trial court sentenced him to prison, and it ordered him to pay $19, 855.91 in restitution.

         ¶ 5 When the court issued the restitution order, section 18-1.3-603(4)(b)(I), C.R.S. 2012, which we shall call "the restitution statute," provided that a defendant owed post-judgment interest "from the date of the entry of the order at the rate of twelve percent per annum." (In 2016, the legislature amended the statute to lower the rate to 8%. Ch. 277, sec. 1, § 18-1.3-603, 2016 Colo. Sess. Laws 1142.) The restitution order in this case specifically noted that "interest will accrue at 12% per annum from the date of entry of the order."

         ¶ 6 In June 2015, the Judicial Department issued a press release "announc[ing] a finalized plan to correct deficiencies in calculating and assessing interest on restitution." The press release noted that the restitution statute "ha[d] not been applied consistently among the state's judicial districts" and that the Judicial Department would begin "calculat[ing] and assess[ing] 1 percent interest monthly on restitution balances to ensure consistent and accurate application of the law across the state."

         ¶ 7 The new policy came on the heels of a 2014 report issued by the Colorado State Auditor. The report noted that most judicial districts had not assessed or collected any interest since the legislature had enacted the restitution statute.

         ¶ 8 In July 2015, clerks of court around the state began sending letters to defendants with outstanding restitution balances to inform them of the new policy. Defendant received a letter from the clerk of the El Paso County district court, which stated that he had an outstanding restitution balance of $19, 583.98 and that "interest will be added at 1% per month of the current balance . . . until the original restitution amount is paid in full."

         II. Trial Court's Order

         ¶ 9 In response to the Judicial Department's new policy, defendant asked the trial court for an order declaring that the Judicial Department did not have the statutory authority to charge him monthly interest. He made two arguments in support of his request: (1) the statute's plain language did not allow the Judicial Department to make interest payable monthly; and (2) charging interest monthly rather than yearly "results in increased interest payments and [therefore] greater punishment."

         ¶ 10 The trial court denied the motion. It first concluded that "twelve percent per annum" plainly referred "to a simple interest calculation that is compounded at the end of each calendar year." But, the court continued, "[t]hat does not mean . . . that the assessment of interest remains stagnant for the year prior to interest being compounded." The trial court found that "[a] contrary interpretation would run afoul of the ...


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