July 18, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Plain Language of Restitution Statute Does Not Prohibit Judicial Branch’s Monthly Imposition of Interest

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Ray on Thursday, November 15, 2018.

Criminal Law—Restitution—Interest.

A jury convicted defendant of second-degree assault. The trial court sentenced him to prison and ordered him to pay $19,855.91 in restitution. In accordance with the restitution statute in effect at the time, the restitution order in this case specifically noted that interest would accrue at 12% per annum from the date of order’s entry. Defendant later received a letter from the district court clerk, which stated that he had an outstanding restitution balance of $19,583.98 and that “interest will be added at 1% per month of the current balance . . . until the original restitution amount is paid in full.” Defendant contested the monthly interest charge, which was denied by the trial court.

On appeal, defendant contended that the phrase “per annum” in the restitution statute is unambiguous and means that interest can only be collected once a year. He argued the district court erred by allowing the clerk to charge monthly interest on the outstanding restitution amount. However, the term per annum is not defined in the statute and is thus ambiguous. Based on legislative intent, case law from other jurisdictions, and standard methods of calculating interest, the court of appeals determined that the statute does not limit the payment of interest to an annual basis. Therefore, the Judicial Department did not violate the statute.

The order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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