A restitution order is a “significant adverse collateral consequence” within the meaning of California Rules of Court, rule 8.851(a)(1)(A), requiring the appointment of counsel for an indigent defendant on appeal in a misdemeanor case. Harris pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of corporal injury on a spouse in exchange for probation. He was ordered to serve a 45-day jail sentence and to pay various fines and fees totaling $735. After a restitution hearing, the court modified Harris’ probation and ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of $1,571.32. Harris then filed a notice of appeal, explaining that he faced serious financial harm as a result of the restitution order rendered, and requested appointment of counsel. The appellate division of the superior court summarily denied his request for appointed counsel. Harris filed a petition for writ of mandate, arguing that the restitution order was a “significant adverse collateral consequence” and therefore he had a right to appointed counsel under California Rules of Court, rule 8.851. Held: Petition granted. Rule 8.851 requires the appointment of counsel for a misdemeanor appellant who is likely to suffer significant adverse collateral consequences as a result of the conviction and was represented by appointed counsel in the trial court or establishes indigency. The Court of Appeal analyzed the meaning of “collateral consequences” in different contexts and concluded that the Judicial Council intended the meaning of “collateral” as applied in mootness cases involving criminal appeals. “[R]estitution must be seen as a prejudicial consequence that could be ameliorated on appeal should defendant prevail, and the common dictionary meaning of ‘collateral’ easily applies to the consequence of having to make restitution.” The court granted the petition for writ of mandate and directed the court to vacate its order denying Harris’ request for appointment of appellate counsel.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/C083669.PDF