Restitution hearings in Utah Criminal Cases

The Utah Court of Appeals overturned a district court’s decision on restitution in State v. Ludlow opinion number 20140106-CA. Typically, if an individual causes harm to another’s property or deprives another individual of property the court can order restitution in a monetary amount. The issue in this case is how a court determines what the monetary amount should be if, for example in this case, a laptop was bought back in 2009. Facts in State v. Ludlow In this particular case, the defendant, Naomi Ludlow, was charged with vehicle burglary and theft in which she pleaded guilty to the theft and the burglary charge was dismissed. The court ordered restitution and a hearing on the matter was held. The victim testified at the hearing and identified the stolen items as a laptop bought in 2009, an ipod that had been purchased 6 months earlier, a smartphone that was a year old and a subwoofer and speakers that were fairly new. The victim also gave the retail value of each item. During the hearing, Ludlow said that the price of the items were overstated and that some of the items had been returned. However, the court determined that since she failed to contradict the prices with her own standard, that the amount of restitution would be based off of the testimony of the victim. Restitution Standard The appeals court stated that in restitution, an individual can only recover the pecuniary value or in other words, the fair market value of the item. The court did acknowledge however, that there are times when the full market value is more appropriate such as when an individual gets a truck stolen that it two-weeks old. The court also acknowledged that there are times when it may be hard to determine a fair market price because it may be hard to find a willing buyer. In that case, an individual should still be able to receive compensation. The appeals court also acknowledged, citing a Florida State case, that it is almost always inappropriate for a court to give restitution on the purchase price of electronics when the market value for those items are at various ages. The court also stated that the purchase price is a starting point, however, if there is evidence to show the market value in relation to the purchase price, the purchase price evidence is essentially “immaterial.” As a result, the court of appeals determined that since the district court failed to relate the purchase price to the fair market value of the items over the objection of the defendant, it abused its discretion and reversed the ruling. The court pointed out that it was the duty of the court to determine the fair market value, not the defendant who had objected to the prices and the burden of the State to determine the approximate value of the items. This a good win for those involved with restitution values and it asserts that the defendant need not go and ensure that each item had its actual fair market value price. However, in practice, it is good for the defense attorney to ensure to look up the fair market value of each item instead of relying on the testimony of the state and the victim and also the court. Having a tally of the items and their current worth can help save each client paying more than what they could be actually ordered. This case helps ensure that the district courts do stay in check when it comes to approaching the purchase price of an item and the actual fair market value. Tprostitution, utah murder, west valley utah criminal defense

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