ILNews

Restitution can't include security system costs

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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State statute doesn't allow trial courts to order restitution to pay for installation of a security system in victims' homes, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided today.

Ruling on Keith Elton Rich v. State of Indiana, No. 79A05-0712-CR-687, the appellate court reversed Tippecanoe Circuit Judge Thomas Busch's restitution order issued in October 2007. Rich had pleaded guilty to burglary and marijuana possession and received a 14-year sentence that was partially suspended to probation. As a condition of probation, he also was ordered to pay a $200 public defender fee, and reimburse the victims for the cost of a home security system.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the sentence, ruling that the trial judge acted within its discretion on everything except the security system aspect of restitution. Judge Busch had questioned whether he had the authority to order that reimbursement. The judge had ordered Rich pay $2,154.20 for installation and monthly fees for the system, which the victims had installed "to help give peace-of-mind while alone at night or out of the house."

"Although this case is the first opportunity Indiana appellate courts have had to address the propriety of a restitution award for a burglary victim's installation of a security system, several of our sister states with restitution statutes similar to our own have addressed this question and concluded that the inclusion of this cost is improper," Judge Margret Robb wrote, citing caselaw from Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Virginia, and Idaho.

The court relied on its holdings that restitution must reflect an actual loss incurred by the victim, and it analyzed the state statute's plain language that victims can receive restitution for "property damages" based on the cost of "repair."

"In no way do we fault or criticize the victims for feeling insecure in their home or seeking to install a security system," Judge Robb wrote. "However, whether the trial court should have the discretion to include the cost of a new security system in a restitution order is a question more properly addressed to the legislative branch than to the judicial branch. The installation of the new security system does not constitute such damage, and no other portion of the statute can be construed to authorize such an order."

This case is remanded with instructions to correct the restitution order.
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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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