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People v. Rice.

2020 COA 143. No. 19CA0014. Criminal Law—Restitution.

October 8, 2020

Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of first degree aggravated motor vehicle theft, display of unlawful license plates. At sentencing, the district court left open the specific amount of restitution for 91 days, and 99 days after defendant’s sentence it entered a restitution order of $3,056.82.

On appeal, defendant argued that the district court was required to enter a restitution order within 91 days of the conviction. Under the Colorado restitution statute, if a district court decides at sentencing to defer its decision regarding the appropriate amount of restitution, it must determine the specific amount of restitution within 91 days  following the order of conviction unless good cause is shown for extending the time period. Here, the record reflects that following defendant’s conviction, the trial court was proactively attending to the unresolved restitution issue but ultimately missed the 91-day deadline by mere days due to docket scheduling. This procedural history constitutes an implied showing of good cause to extend the time period for determining restitution.

Defendant also argued that the prosecutor failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he proximately caused the damage to the victim’s vehicle. In the context of restitution, proximate cause is a cause that in natural and probable sequence produced the claimed injury and without which such injury would not have been sustained. Here, defendant had purchased the vehicle only weeks before it was recovered and it had been stolen for almost a year, and there was no evidence in the record of when the damages were sustained. Accordingly, the record contains insufficient evidence that defendant more likely than not proximately caused the damages. Notwithstanding, defendant’s plea agreement explicitly contemplates a restitution award covering dismissed charges. Here, defendant initially was charged with one count of first degree aggravated motor vehicle theft (causing $500 or more in property damage), which charge was dismissed. Therefore, the record supports the imposition of modified restitution of $500 in consideration of the dismissed count.

The restitution order was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded with instructions to award restitution in the modified amount of $500.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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