Restitution award for $1 million for noneconomic damages in felony child molestation case upheld despite lack of expert or victim testimony establishing that particular amount. A jury convicted Lehman of a number of sex offenses (including violations of Penal Code section 288) for abusing his granddaughters. On appeal, he challenged a $1 million noneconomic restitution award on various grounds including that the prosecution failed to make a prima facie case to support such an award because, at the restitution hearing, the prosecutor only presented evidence of similar awards in other cases. Held: Affirmed. Penal Code section 1202.4, subdivision (f) provides that the court may order victim restitution for the value of stolen or damaged property, medical expenses, mental health counseling, lost wages or profits, and “[n]oneconomic losses, including, but not limited to, psychological harm, for felony violations of Section 288.” Unlike economic damages, “[n]o fixed standard exists for deciding the amount of [noneconomic] damages.” Furthermore, section 1202.4 does not require any particular kind of proof to establish a victim’s losses. Although there was no expert or victim testimony offered at the restitution hearing, the court could properly consider the victims’ trial testimony, the victims’ statements at sentencing, and the recommendation set forth in the probation officer’s report. In this case, the victims’ testimony and statements were sufficient to support the trial court’s finding that they continued to suffer psychological distress from Lehman’s years of abuse. The award in this case was not so large that it shocks the conscience and the trial court did not abuse its discretion.
Court does not need to specify how it calculated the amount of noneconomic damages. Lehman also argued that the restitution award was invalid because the trial court did not specify how it arrived at the $1 million award. The Court of Appeal disagreed. Although courts have reversed restitution awarded for economic losses when the court failed to specify how it calculated the amount, there are “significant differences” between economic and noneconomic losses, as the latter “require more subjective considerations.” Here, the court stated that psychological distress was the basis for the award. Provided there is no fixed standard for calculating noneconomic losses “it is unclear exactly what more the trial court could have done” to explain the basis for the award.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A144800.PDF