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Criminal Restitution that Cost a Whopping Three Times the Cost of a Truck?!

In Orange County (and all of California), crime victims with damaged or destroyed property are entitled to restitution. Criminal restitution requires that the defendant in a criminal case pay for the victim’s damages- he must replace or repair damaged property, pay for counseling, if necessary, and pay direct damages like medical bills that resulted from the criminal act.

Patricia Short-Lyster is one such victim. Around 2008, she bought a 1975 Dodge Adventurer pickup truck. Her father, a former auto mechanic, encouraged her to buy it because it was in excellent condition. In 2009, Leroy Stanley vandalized Short-Lyster’s truck so badly that the driver’s side door of the vehicle could no longer be opened. Stanley was arrested and pled “no contest” to the charges. (Pleading “no contest” allows a defendant to avoid having the conviction used against him in a subsequent civil trial).

Stanley’s no contest plea required that he pay restitution. Since Short-Lyster bought the truck for $950, Stanley assumed that would be the amount of restitution he would have to pay. To his surprise, the court ordered Stanley to pay for the cost of repair of the vehicle instead: $2812.94, nearly three times the amount Short-Lyster paid for the truck.

Stanley’s criminal defense lawyer appealed the case to the 3rd District Court of Appeal, arguing that Stanley should only have to pay Short-Lyster $950, the amount she paid for the truck, plus an additional 10 to 15 percent “inconvenience” fee to the plaintiff.

In rendering its decision, the court noted that the amount of restitution can be either the cost of repair or cost of replacement of the truck, and it need not be the lesser of the two amounts. Further, the court suggested that the victim would face difficulty in finding another 1975 Dodge Adventurer in excellent condition for $950. It held that the time and effort she would use searching for one would increase the amount of her damages beyond the $950 award. The appeals court upheld the trial court’s decision in awarding Short-Lyster the cost of repair of the vehicle, even though it amounted to nearly three times the amount she paid for the vehicle.

If you are arrested on charges of vandalism or are being asked to pay restitution, contact the Law Offices of Staycie R. Sena at (949) 477-8088 immediately. She has over 16 years of experience in the field of criminal defense and will work with District Attorneys and prosecutors tirelessly to get your charges reduced or dismissed.