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.