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Name: People v. Gomez
Case #: A164374
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 11/14/2023
Summary

Although the evidentiary bar is low, a victim restitution award must be supported by some evidence of the impact of the defendant’s crimes on the particular victim. Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of lewd acts upon a child under the age of 14 (Pen. Code, § 288(a)). At sentencing, the court read a victim impact statement by Doe, which described defendant as a “setback” in Doe’s life. No additional evidence was presented in advance of or at the restitution hearing. Instead, the prosecution argued that noneconomic damages could be inferred from the nature of the crime. Relying on the court’s own experience with similar cases, the trial court ordered restitution of $50,000 for each count, for a total of $100,000. On appeal, defendant argued the award lacked an adequate factual basis. Held: Reversed and remanded. Restitution orders are generally limited to the victim’s economic damages, but there is an exception for noneconomic losses, including, but not limited to psychological harm for felony violations of section 288, 288.5, or 288.7. (§ 1202.4(f)(3)(F).) To support a victim restitution award, there must be some evidence of the impact of the crime on the particular victim. This is because a crime victim may recover only for losses personally incurred by the victim. Thus, it is insufficient that the average victim would suffer injury from a particular type of crime, or that generally victims of such crimes suffer injury. Here, there was no evidence of the impact of defendant’s crimes on Doe, as Doe did not testify and the victim impact statement primarily expressed anger at defendant. Because the trial court relied exclusively on its experience and common sense regarding similar incidents in awarding restitution, the restitution award was an abuse of discretion.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A164374.PDF