Crime Victim Rights Act and Restitution
The Crime Victim Rights Act (CVRA) grants victims of crime the right to restitution for their losses incurred due to a defendant’s course of conduct resulting in a criminal conviction.
M.C.L. § 780.766 (1) defines a “victim” as an individual who suffers direct or threatened physical, financial or emotional harm as a result of a commission of a crime. It goes on to state in M.C.L. § 780.766 (2), “When sentencing a defendant convicted of a crime, the court shall order, in addition to or in lieu of any other penalty authorized by law or in addition to any other penalty required by law, that the defendant make full restitution to any victim of the defendant’s course of conduct that gives rise to the conviction or to the victim’s estate.
Often times, someone convicted of a crime is ordered to pay restitution to a “victim” in an attempt to restore that victim to how they were before becoming the victim of the crime. However, determining who a victim is for purposes of restitution is not easily determined.
Supreme Court of Michigan
The Supreme Court of Michigan held in People v. McKinley, that MCL 780.766(2) requires a direct, casual relationship between the conduct underlying the convicted offense and the amount of restitution ordered. McKinley was found guilty of thefts of commercial air conditioning units and ordered to pay restitution to four victims of the offenses in which he was convicted. He was also ordered to pay restitution to victims of uncharged thefts attributed to him by his accomplice. The Court held that only crimes for which a defendant is charged cause or give rise to the conviction and that “any victim” be a victim “of” the defendant’s course of conduct giving rise to the conviction, indicating that a victim for whom restitution is assessed need also have a connection to the course of conduct that gives rise to the conviction. The court ultimately determined that McKinley was not responsible for restitution to the uncharged thefts.
Can Restitution be Paid to any Victim?
This means that restitution should not be ordered to just “any victim”, but only those victims that have a connection to the charged criminal conduct resulting in a conviction. For example, in People v. Sorreis, the defendant pleaded no contest to a charge of failure to stop at the scene of an accident resulting in serious impairment or death. The defendant was ordered to pay restitution for the funeral and burial expenses of a victim who died after the defendant struck him with her car. However, it was held that because the funeral and burial expenses were not losses sustained as a result of the offense for which the defendant was convicted, the defendant was not required to pay the funeral and burial expenses. This is an example of how a defendant is not liable for “any victim”, but only those who have a connection the charged criminal conduct resulting in the conviction. Here the Defendant was charged with the failure to stop at the scene of an accident, she was not charged with a crime causing the death of the “victim” therefore she is not responsible for restitution for the cost of funeral and burial expenses.