The California Supreme Court ruled in San Francisco today that crime victims whose property has been vandalized are entitled to be paid the full cost of repair in restitution, even if the repair costs more than the item itself.
The high court said a man who vandalized a Yolo County woman’s $950 truck must pay her $2,800 in restitution for repair costs.
The perpetrator, Leroy Stanley, pleaded no contest to a charge of felony vandalism for extensively denting and damaging the 1975 Dodge Adventurer pickup truck belonging to Patricia Short-Lyster in 2009.
Short-Lyster had bought the truck a year and a half earlier for $950 after her father, a former auto mechanic, had checked out it and advised her to buy it.
Stanley was sentenced by Yolo County Superior Court Judge Paul Richardson to one year and four months in prison and ordered to pay $2,800 in repair costs.
In an appeal, Stanley challenged the restitution amount, arguing that he should have to pay only the original $950 cost. He contended that paying a $2,800 repair cost would give the victim a “windfall.”
But the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a 1982 voter initiative known as the Victims’ Bill of Rights allows judges to order full repair costs as restitution.
The initiative provides that victims should be repaid the cost of the property or the cost of repair. The court, in an opinion written by Justice Joyce Kennard, said that in keeping with the spirit of the law, judges have the discretion to order either option.
Kennard, quoting a Court of Appeal decision in the case, wrote, “The fact that the repairs will cost about three times the victim’s purchase price does not mean she will receive a windfall.
“It means she will have her truck back in the same condition it was before defendant vandalized it,” Kennard wrote.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News