July 16, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Trial Court Erred in Including Statutory Penalty in Restitution Order

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Russell on Thursday, August 15, 2013.

Restitution—Order—Unemployment Benefits—Statutory Penalty.

Defendant Beau Thomas Russell appealed the trial court’s restitution order, which included a mandated statutory penalty following his plea of guilty to one count of forgery. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Russell’s plea resulted from his receipt of $3,321 of unemployment compensation benefits over a two-month period, after he falsely reported himself as unemployed to the Unemployment Benefits Division of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Russell asserted that the trial court erred when it included the statutory penalty in the restitution order. The trial court could not impose the statutory penalty without proof of a correlation between Russel’s actions and the amount of the statutory penalty. Because there was no evidence in the record that the statutory penalty relates in any way to the cost of investigating Russell’s conduct, the trial court abused its discretion by including the statutory penalty in the restitution order. Therefore, the restitution order was reversed as to the penalty, and the case was remanded for the trial court to amend the order by deleting the 50% penalty amount from the restitution award. The order was affirmed in all other respects.

Summary and full case available here.

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