April 21, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Restitution Award Vacated Where No Evidence Defendant Proximately Caused Damage

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of D.I. on Thursday, September 24, 2015.

Restitution— Unendorsed Expert Testimony.

A police officer responded to a dispatch of someone recklessly driving a car that had been reported stolen two days earlier. The sole occupant of the car, D.I., was arrested. After he was in custody, officers saw that the ignition had been “punched” so that it could be started with a screwdriver. They found a screwdriver near the driver’s seat and no keys.

D.I. was charged with theft, first-degree aggravated motor vehicle theft, and possession of burglary tools (the screwdriver). The juvenile court adjudicated D.I. for committing the crimes of second-degree aggravated motor vehicle theft and possession of burglary tools. He was sentenced to “up to two years of probation or further court order” and ordered to pay $3067.91 in restitution for damage to the car.

On appeal, D.I. argued the trial court abused its discretion when it ordered restitution because there was no evidence that he proximately caused the damage to the car. The Court of Appeals agreed. According to the court’s findings, the damage to the car was inflicted two days before the time the court found that D.I. exercised control over the car. Therefore, the restitution order must be vacated.

D.I. argued that it was error to admit unendorsed expert testimony from a lay witness when it allowed a police officer to testify about the use of screwdrivers to operate stolen vehicles. The Court concluded that even if some of the testimony should not have been admitted, any error was harmless. The judgment of conviction was affirmed and the restitution order was vacated.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

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