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Name: People v. Wilen
Case #: A115861
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 07/25/2008

Health and Safety Code section 11470.1, which provides the exclusive means by which a government entity that is not a direct victim of a crime may recoup its costs of clean up resulting from the controlled substance crime, guarantees a defendant the right to a jury trial on the determination of the clean-up expenses, as well as the right to be present at the trial. By his guilty pleas, appellant was convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine and sentenced to state prison. Before sentence was imposed, the prosecuting attorney filed a petition seeking recovery of costs incurred by the state in the clean up of the methamphetamine laboratory. Appellant repeatedly requested a jury trial on the amount of recovery costs sought, but the court denied the request and, in the absence of appellant, received evidence from the state’s witnesses. On the basis of the evidence provided, the court assessed appellant $2,689.50 in costs. The appellate court held that the plain language of the statute guaranteed a defendant a jury trial on the determination of costs, regardless whether the conviction was by jury or plea. The court rejected the prosecution’s argument that appellant waived his right to trial when he entered his plea and was advised of the requirement for imposition of restitution fines. Section 11470.1 is a different animal than the restitution fine and waiver of one does not result in waiver of the other. Because the determination involved a critical stage of the prosecution, appellant also had a statutory right to be present at the “trial.” However, in this case, the errors, evaluated under a Watson standard (People v. Watson (1956) 46 Cal.2d 818), were determined to not be prejudicial since appellant’s presence would not have resulted in a different result and the evidence provided adequately established the amount of loss.