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State v. Berry

March 10, 1997

STATE OF WASHINGTON, RESPONDENT,
v.
JASON BERRY, DOB: 4/1/81, APPELLANT.



Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 95-8-05644-1. Date filed: 12/19/95. Judge signing: Hon. Michael S. Spearman.

PER CURIAM. -- Jason Berry was charged in juvenile court with second degree burglary for the role he played in vandalizing a vacant apartment.

Berry pleaded guilty to the offense charged. He now appeals, contending the court lacked authority to order him to pay restitution for one month's lost rental income of the apartment. Because loss of rental income represents the type of damages recoverable under the juvenile restitution statute and is causally related to the burglary charge, we affirm.

FACTS

On March 13, 1995, Berry and several other juveniles unlawfully entered an unoccupied duplex apartment in Seattle and wrote graffiti throughout the apartment. The apartment was in the process of being remodeled. Berry was charged with and pleaded guilty to burglary in the second degree.

A restitution hearing was subsequently held. Thomas Payne, the apartment owner/manager, testified that the apartment had been vacant for several months while he remodeled it. Although several prospective tenants were interested in the apartment, they needed it sooner than Payne could make it available. By the time of the break-in, however, the apartment was nearly ready for rental. As a result of the physical damage caused by the vandalism, Payne had to repaint and repeat the cleaning he had just completed. Payne testified that the apartment could have been ready for rent a month after the incident. The court ordered Berry to pay $1,256.50 to Thomas Payne, an amount that included the cost of repairing the apartment and lost rental income for one month. This appeal followed.

ANALYSIS

The sole issue presented is whether the juvenile court exceeded its authority in ordering Berry to pay restitution to Payne for the loss of one month's rental income. Appellate review of a restitution order entered in juvenile court is limited to determining whether the restitution imposed was authorized by statute. *fn1 When authorized by statute, the imposition of restitution rests within the sound discretion of the trial court and will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion. *fn2

Berry first asks us to rule as a matter of law that lost rental income is not a proper measure of damages under the juvenile restitution statute.

Pursuant to RCW 13.40.020(21), "restitution" is broadly defined as financial reimbursement by the offender to the victim, and shall be limited to easily ascertainable damages for injury to or loss of property, actual expenses incurred for medical treatment for physical injury to persons, lost wages resulting from physical injury, and costs of the victim's counseling reasonably related to the offense if the offense is a sex offense.

Berry contends that restitution is not authorized for loss of rental income because it does not fit within this statutory definition of "restitution."

Relying on Hefa, *fn3 he argues that, while property damage is included in the list of items that can be the subject of restitution, "the proper measure of damages for injuries to property is the reasonable and necessary cost of repairing the property." We find Hefa distinguishable.

In Hefa, the juvenile offender pleaded guilty to second degree burglary. At a restitution hearing he was ordered to pay restitution for certain wages the victim claimed he lost while securing and repairing his house. In reversing the order of restitution as it pertains to lost wages, the appellate court held that "the statute unambiguously limits restitution for lost wages to those resulting from physical injury." *fn4

The obvious difference between this case and Hefa is that Berry was not ordered to pay restitution for Payne's lost wages. The court's decision in Hefa was based on the fact that the restitution statute specifically limited the scope of restitution for lost wages. *fn5 There is no similar statutory limitation for lost rental income.

Moreover, Berry's interpretation is contrary to the rationale underlying the restitution statutes. Statutes authorizing restitution must be construed broadly so as to carry out the expressed intent of the Legislature to allow restitution. *fn6 One of the stated purposes of the Juvenile Justice Act is to provide restitution for victims. *fn7 That purpose is advanced only when the offender appreciates the total economic impact his or her illegal conduct has had on a victim. *fn8 With these principles in mind, the words "damages for injury to or loss of property" in the statute encompass not only the expense of repairing the physical damage to the property but may include costs associated with the inability ...


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