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People v. Guillen

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Second Division

August 8, 2013

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
ARMANDO GUILLEN, Defendant and Respondent.

APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County No. RIF10000472, Elaine M. Johnson, Judge.

Paul E. Zellerbach, District Attorney, and Matt Reilly, Deputy District Attorney, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Robert Booher, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Respondent.

OPINION

McKINSTER, Acting P. J.

This is a People’s appeal from an order of the trial court dismissing the restitution fines originally imposed on defendant and respondent Armando Guillen. Defendant was admitted to probation through a drug court program. Eventually, defendant successfully completed his court-ordered drug treatment program, and the court terminated probation early. The court dismissed all the charges, and suspended or dismissed all the imposed fines, including any restitution fines that had not been fully paid. The People now appeal, contending that the trial court erred in suspending, dismissing or otherwise terminating the unpaid restitution fines. We affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In 2010, defendant was charged by a complaint with three offenses: felony possession of methamphetamine (Health & Saf. Code, § 11377, subd. (a)), felony sale or transportation of methamphetamine (Health & Saf. Code, § 11379, subd. (a)), and misdemeanor driving while his license was suspended for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (Veh. Code, § 14601.2, subd. (a)). Soon after being charged, defendant agreed to change his plea, and to plead guilty, in exchange for probation and admission to a drug court program.[1] The court granted supervised drug program probation for 36 months and imposed various fines and fees, including payment of a restitution fine of $200, pursuant to Penal Code section 1202.4, subdivision (b). The payment of the restitution fine was made a condition of defendant’s probation.

From the outset, defendant progressed well and was promoted to the successive phases of the program in due course. He was consistently rated as cooperative with the ROC staff and peers, and enthusiastic in his participation in the program. He successfully completed family reunification and obtained employment. In January 2011, he celebrated a one-year anniversary of sobriety. In March 2011, he transitioned to the aftercare phase of the program. Throughout the approximately 20 months in the program, defendant was drug-tested 90 times, without a positive result. On September 14, 2011, after approximately six months in the aftercare phase of treatment, defendant graduated from the ROC program and the drug court terminated his probation early. The minutes recite that the court ordered “all fines suspended, ” and granted the defense motion under Penal Code section 1203.4, setting aside defendant’s guilty pleas, and entering a plea of not guilty. The court thereupon dismissed the case.

At the hearing, defense counsel stated, “I make a motion to stay and suspend all fines and fees and dismiss the case pursuant to 1203 and the ROC contract.” The prosecutor, however, stated, “Same objection as to the fines.” The court implicitly overruled the People’s objection and granted the defense motion “to set aside your plea, dismiss the charges, and terminate probation and suspend all fines and fees.”

The People filed a notice of appeal from the ruling suspending all fines and fees.

ANALYSIS

I. Standard of Review

The issue presented is whether the trial court had the authority or discretion to suspend, dismiss, or otherwise do away with or terminate the restitution fine in defendant’s case. The issue turns on the interpretation of the relevant statutory provisions and, thus, presents essentially an issue of law, which we review de novo: “[W]hen the propriety of a restitution order turns on the interpretation of a statute, a question of law is raised, which is subject to de novo review on appeal.” (People v. Williams (2010) 184 Cal.App.4th 142, 146; see also In re Anthony M. (2007) 156 Cal.App.4th 1010, 1016.) Questions of law are reviewed de novo. (In re Tobacco II Cases (2009) 46 Cal.4th 298, 311.) “Questions of statutory interpretation are, of course, pure matters of law upon which we may exercise our independent judgment.” (Jones v. Pierce (1988) 199 Cal.App.3d 736, 741.) Accordingly, the standard of review is de novo.

II. The Trial Court Could Properly Suspend or Dismiss the Restitution Fines in the Context of Drug Court Early Termination of Probation

A. Background of the Law Concerning Victim Restitution and Restitution Fines

1. Legislative History: Victims’ Bill of Rights

In June 1982, the electorate passed Proposition 8, known as The Victims’ Bill of Rights. Among other things, Proposition 8 declared a state constitutional right of crime victims to restitution from those persons convicted of crimes, which crimes caused losses to the victims. (Cal. Const., art. I, § 28, subd. (b), par. (13)(A).) In response to the new constitutional provisions, the Legislature amended some old statutes and enacted new ones to implement the right to restitution. (See People v. Giordano (2007) 42 Cal.4th 644, 652.)

The statutes recognize two kinds of restitution: (1) restitution fines (Pen. Code, § 1202.4, subd. (b)), which are not directly related to the amount of loss sustained by a victim, and (2) direct restitution to the victim (Pen. Code, § 1202.4, subd. (f)), which is based on the amount of the loss the victim actually sustained. The purposes of the two kinds of restitution are different. The imposition of a restitution fine is punishment. (See People v. Kunitz (2004) 122 Cal.App.4th 652, 656.) The purpose of direct victim restitution, however, is to reimburse the victim for economic losses caused by the defendant’s criminal conduct, i.e., to make the victim reasonably whole. (People v. Taylor (2011) 197 Cal.App.4th 757, 763; cf. People v. Phu (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 280, 283.) Secondary goals of direct restitution include rehabilitation of the defendant and deterrence of future criminality. (People v. Jennings (2005) 128 Cal.App.4th 42, 57.)

There was no direct victim restitution ordered in this case. Rather, defendant was ordered to pay only a restitution fine, i.e., punishment. Restitution fines are not paid directly to the victims of crime. Rather, they are payable to the state. Restitution fines are deposited to the Restitution Fund. (Pen. Code, § 1202.4, subd. (e).) The Restitution Fund is in the State Treasury department, and is used to compensate victims for certain kinds of “pecuniary losses they suffer as a direct result of criminal acts.” (Gov. Code, § 13950, subd. (a).)

Penal Code section 1202.4, subdivision (f)(11), provides that, “If a defendant has any remaining unpaid balance on a restitution order or fine 120 days prior to his or her scheduled release from probation or 120 days prior to his or her completion of a conditional sentence, the defendant shall prepare and file a new and updated financial disclosure...” to facilitate future enforcement of the remainder of the unpaid restitution or restitution fine. Penal Code section 1202.4, subdivision (i), provides that, “A restitution order imposed pursuant to subdivision (f) shall be enforceable as if the order were a civil judgment.” Penal Code section 1202.4, subdivision (m), provides that, “In every case in which the defendant is granted probation, the court shall make the payment of restitution fines and orders imposed pursuant to this section a condition of probation. Any portion of a restitution order that remains unsatisfied after a defendant is no longer on probation shall continue to be enforceable by a victim pursuant to Section 1214 until the obligation is satisfied.”

2. Unpaid Portions of Victim Restitution and Restitution Fines Generally Survive, Even When the Defendant Is No Longer on Probation

The complex intertwining of the various statutory provisions has resulted in the recognition that, in general, the Legislature intended the unpaid balance of restitution orders to survive a probationary term.

a. A Restitution Fine Survives the Termination of Probation When Probation Is Revoked

In People v. Chambers (1998) 65 Cal.App.4th 819, the Third District Court of Appeal considered the question with respect to restitution fines. When the defendant was first sentenced, the trial court had imposed a restitution fine of $200. Later, the court revoked the defendant’s probation, and made a second order imposing a restitution fine of $500. The appellate court concluded that the trial court was not authorized to impose a second restitution fine, because the initial restitution fine survived the revocation of probation. The imposition of a restitution fine was mandatory upon conviction of a felony, whether or not the defendant was admitted to probation. (Id. at p. 821.) The restitution fine could be imposed as a condition of probation, if probation were granted. (Id. at pp. 821-822.) But, “[e]ven if the restitution fine was imposed as a condition of probation, the statutes contemplated that it would survive the probationary term. For example, former Penal Code section 1202.4, subdivision (c), provided that if a restitution fine was imposed as a condition of probation but stayed, the stay would be lifted upon revocation of probation and imposition of sentence. While the restitution fine in this case was not stayed at the time probation was granted, it is apparent from the statutory scheme in existence in 1993 that it survived the revocation of the defendant’s probation because (1) the court was required to impose a restitution fine regardless of whether probation was granted, and (2) former Penal Code section 1202.4, subdivision (c), exhibits the Legislature’s intent not to void a restitution fine when probation is revoked. Furthermore, there was no provision for imposing a restitution fine upon revocation of probation and the triggering event for imposition of a restitution fine was conviction. (Former Gov. Code, § 13967; former Pen. Code, § 1202.4.)

“In 1994, the Legislature amended Government Code section 13967 and Penal Code section 1202.4, deleting the requirement of a restitution fine from section 13967 and incorporating it into section 1202.4. (Stats. 1994, ch. 1106, §§ 2, 3.) Present law still requires imposition of a restitution fine when a person is convicted of a felony, regardless of whether probation is granted. (Pen. Code, § 1202.4, subd. (b) [requirement of fine unless compelling and extraordinary reasons found].) If the defendant is granted probation, the court must make payment of restitution and the restitution fine conditions of probation. (Pen. Code, § 1202.4, subd. (m).) Restitution to a victim remaining unpaid at the end of the probationary term is enforceable against the defendant as if it were a civil judgment. (Pen. Code, §§ 1202.4, subd. (m), 1214.)

“There is nothing in the current statutory scheme to suggest any change in the Legislature’s intent to have a restitution fine survive the revocation of probation. Indeed, the statutory scheme suggests otherwise. Restitution fines are required in all cases in which a conviction is obtained. Furthermore, there is no provision for imposing a restitution fine after revocation of probation. The triggering event for imposition of the restitution fine is still conviction. (Pen. Code, § 1202.4, subd. (b).)” (Id. at p. 822.)

People v. Arata (2004) 118 Cal.App.4th 195, was another decision of the Third District Court of Appeal, which reiterated the principles set forth in Chambers. Arata paralleled the events in Chambers: the defendant was admitted to probation in November 1999, at which time the trial court imposed a $600 restitution fine pursuant to Penal Code section 1202.4. (Arata, at p. 197.) The defendant thereafter violated his probation on several occasions and was reinstated on probation with modifications to the sentence or probation terms. Ultimately, the trial court revoked the defendant’s probation and sentenced him to state prison for four years, lifting the stay of execution on the sentence. In addition, at the time the court sentenced the defendant to state prison, it ordered the defendant to pay a restitution fine of $800. (Id. at p. 201.) The defendant in Arata, like the defendant in Chambers, argued that the trial court erred in imposing a second restitution fine at the time of the state prison sentence, because it had already imposed a restitution fine at the time the defendant was granted probation. The Arata court stated, “Despite the fact that the restitution fine is imposed as a condition of probation, however, it survives the probationary term” (ibid.), citing its earlier decision in Chambers. (People v. Chambers, supra, 65 Cal.App.4th 819, 822.) “[B]ecause the first restitution fine remained in effect, the trial court was without authority to impose the second restitution fine.” (Arata, at p. 202.) Following Chambers, the ...


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