Polk County District Court File No. 60-CR-12-1022.
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Gregory A. Widseth, Polk County Attorney, Andrew W. Johnson, Assistant County Attorney, Crookston, Minnesota (for respondent)
Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Sara J. Euteneuer, Assistant Public Defender, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Hooten, Judge; and Kirk, Judge.
Appellant challenges the amount of restitution imposed by the district court as part of his sentence for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, arguing that the district court abused its discretion by ordering an amount that, he asserts, does "more than restore the victim to her original financial condition." Because the amount awarded does not overcompensate the victim and is not punitive, we conclude that the award does not constitute an abuse of discretion and affirm.
Appellant Joseph Jerome Milek stole a 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix owned by M.F. from mechanic D.H.'s property where the car was parked awaiting repair of electrical wires in the engine. Milek caused damage to the front of the car that will cost $1, 777.13 to repair. Milek was convicted of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.52, subd. 2(17) and subd. 3(3)(d)(v) (2010) (unauthorized use of a motor vehicle the value of which is not more than $1, 000).
Before Milek's sentencing hearing, respondent State of Minnesota presented M.F.'s certificate of restitution requesting restitution in the amount of $1, 897.13, which is the sum of the cost to repair the damage caused by Milek and $120 that M.F. incurred to transport the car after the theft to a body shop. Milek requested a restitution hearing.
At the restitution hearing, M.F. testified that, prior to the theft, the vehicle had a six-inch crack in the back bumper, caused by running over a dead deer that was lying in the road, and damage to engine wires caused in an unrelated fire. Based on the year and mileage of the car, M.F.'s insurer wrote the car off as a total loss and paid her insurance claim accordingly. M.F. did not believe that the car was a total loss, and she repurchased the car from her insurer for $320.
D.H. testified that he inspected the car after the electrical fire and told M.F. that there was no major damage to the wires and that he could fix it when he had time. D.H. testified that he did not have an opinion about the value of the car but that it was "certainly" worth more than $320 before the theft. Both D.H. and M.F. testified that there was no damage to the front of the car before the theft.
After the car was recovered from Milek's theft, M.F. obtained an estimate from a collision center that it would cost $1, 777.13 to repair the damage caused by Milek. Milek did not dispute the cost of repair or restitution for the $120 towing fee, but argued to the district court that it could not award any more than $320 for the car, which, Milek asserts, is the total value of the car at the time of the theft.
The district court found that the damage Milek caused to the car constitutes an economic loss to M.F. and that Milek did not present any evidence challenging the amount required to repair the damage he caused. The district court then applied its own formula to calculate M.F.'s economic loss resulting from the damage caused by Milek. Referencing Minn. Stat. § 604.14, subd. 1 (2012) (entitling the owner of stolen property to punitive damages up to the value of the property), and Minn. Stat. § 548.05 (2012) (permitting treble damages for trespass to personal property), the district court averaged the sum of $320 (representing the amount M.F. paid her insurer for the car, which the district court characterized as the value of the car), twice that amount ($640), three times that amount ($960), and the repair estimate ($1, 777.13), to ...