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Name: Luis M. v. Superior Court
Case #: S207314
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 06/19/2014

In delinquency case, restitution awarded to city was unsupported because the city failed to comply with statutory scheme that permits restitution based on a city’s average costs to investigate and remediate graffiti. Minor Luis admitted committing felony vandalism in Lancaster City in 2011, as alleged in a Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 petition. He was placed on probation with deferred entry of judgment and ordered to pay over $3,800 in restitution for graffiti cleanup costs. As to restitution, Lancaster crime prevention officer Navarro testified she used a 2006 cost model to establish the annual graffiti abatement cost for the City and to estimate a per incident cost. She had no information regarding the actual abatement costs related to the minor’s conduct. Luis challenged the restitution order by writ of mandate. The Court of Appeal granted the writ, directing the juvenile court to vacate its restitution order and hold a new hearing. The California Supreme Court granted review. Held: Court of Appeal affirmed. In 1994, the Graffiti Removal and Damage Recovery Program (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 742.10, et seq.) was enacted to provide for graffiti remediation costs from minors who deface property. It authorizes a city or county to calculate and recover restitution based on an average cost per incident rather than requiring individualized proof. Here, the City did not take all necessary steps to rely on the 2006 cost model. The City failed to adopt an ordinance authorizing the probation department to recoup cleanup costs as restitution in juvenile proceedings based on average costs or to update its cost findings within the three years preceding the order, as required by Welfare and Institutions Code sections 742.14 and 742.16. Therefore, the City could not rely on its cost model as a basis for determining restitution.

The restitution awarded to city based on the city’s average costs for remediating graffiti was not authorized by Welfare and Institutions Code section 730.6. Section 730.6 provides for victim restitution in juvenile delinquency cases “for all determined economic losses incurred as the result of the minor’s conduct.” The value of stolen or damaged property is the replacement cost of like property or the actual cost of repair. Government entities that repair or replace property that has been defaced with graffiti are entitled to victim restitution. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 730.6, subd. (j).) Although the juvenile court does not need to determine the exact dollar amount of a city’s losses, its calculation under section 730.6 must have some factual nexus to the damage caused by the minor’s conduct. Here, the juvenile court abused its discretion because the restitution award was based on the average of all costs of graffiti cleanup rather than a rational estimate of costs based on Luis’s actual conduct and the damage he caused. The People did not present any evidence on the size or type of Luis’s graffiti or the materials, equipment, and labor required to remove it. Further, the City’s cost model included law enforcement investigative costs, which are not generally recoverable under section 730.6.