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Name: In re Alexander A.
Case #: D056674
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 02/10/2011

The juvenile court’s victim restitution order may be based on repair cost of property even if it exceeds replacement cost. The minor was adjudged a court ward for felony vandalism which resulted in damage to a school mural and a car. At the restitution hearing, the owner of the car submitted a repair estimate of over $8000, and said he considered replacing the car, which had a blue book value of $5300 for the same model in excellent condition. Defense counsel presented evidence showing the non-dealer purchase price of the same car in excellent condition was $4200, and that the same car was listed on Craig’s List for $1800. But after the prosecutor said the victim wanted to keep his car, the court ordered restitution in the amount of estimated repair. The court justified its decision based on rehabilitative effect to the minor and to avoid additional trouble to the victim. The minor argued on appeal this was an abuse of discretion because it gave the victim a windfall. The court recognized the split of authority on the question of damages when the cost to repair damaged or stolen property exceeds replacement value since the restitution statute allows for calculation under both methods. (Compare In re Dina V. (2007) 151 Cal.App.4th 486 [allowed calculation by higher method], and People v. Yanez (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 1622 [limiting to lower amount under a civil tort standard].) The court agreed with Dina V. that tort law does not govern restitution orders and its application would unduly limit the court’s broad discretion in determining restitution. The court opined Yanez failed to give adequate consideration to the role rehabilitation plays in ordering restitution. It was proper to consider the victim’s non-economic losses, such as the time it would take the victim to find a new car, and possible additional expenses, such as taxes and licensing fees. While there may be some case in which one calculation so far exceeds the other that it becomes irrational to use it, that is not the case here.