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Name: People v. LaRoche (2023) 96 Cal.App.5th 1020
Case #: C097431
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 10/25/2023

Victim restitution can compensate a victim for the cost of the stolen object, but not the victim’s cost of obtaining that object. Defendant pleaded no contest to burglary and other charges after stealing a mounted ram’s head from the victim’s garage. At the restitution hearing, the victim claimed the loss of the ram’s head amounted to $7,500. This was comprised of $6,000 for the associated hunting trip for the ram and included travel to and from a ranch, accommodations, food, the actual hunt itself, plus an additional $1,500 to taxidermize and mount the head. The court imposed $7,500 restitution. Defendant appealed. Held: Judgment modified to reduce the restitution award to $1,500. To make the victim whole, restitution must be paid for “economic loss,” including “property.” (Pen. Code, § 1202.4(f)(3).) While a victim’s right to restitution is to be broadly and liberally construed, the Legislature has imposed a limitation on victim restitution that the loss must be an “economic loss” incurred as a result of the defendant’s criminal conduct. Here, defendant’s criminal conduct that deprived the victim of the ram’s mount did nothing to deprive him of the financial value of the hunting trip itself. The court does not “construe the statute’s reference to losses resulting from the defendant’s criminal conduct so expansive as to encompass the costs of the experience in procuring the stolen property.” Thus, the value of the property in this case, i.e., the “economic loss,” does not include the costs attendant to procuring the ram and the trial court erred in concluding otherwise. [Editor’s Note: The Court of Appeal rejected the Attorney General’s claim that defendant forfeited the restitution claim because trial counsel only objected to a lack of documentation and not to the restitution amount. Objecting to the lack of documentation to prove the value of an item, as well as arguing the People failed to meet their burden, is the equivalent of objecting to the prima facie showing of the value of the item itself.]