The defendant in this case, Chad James Garrison, admitted stealing four snowmobiles and two trailers, and pled guilty to larceny greater than $1,000 but less than $20,000, MCL 750.356(3)(a).
The trial court was prepared to enter a restitution award, but Garrison objected and the court held a hearing, which the larceny victims attended. At the restitution hearing, the trial judge ordered Garrison to pay mileage for the victims, who had also driven up previously to check the status of their stolen items. Garrison’s counsel objected to this, saying that it was the victims’ own choice to incur the mileage and that his client should therefore not pay for it. But the trial judge disagreed:
“I think the mileage is reasonable...it’s a direct result of this criminal activity...Somebody breaks into your property, destroys [it]...[A]re you asking citizens that they not come up and inventory what’s been stolen from them — and assess the damages? Clearly anyone’s going to do that. It’s not voluntary...it’s a direct result of criminal activity….And then they come to court today for this restitution hearing. What else do they do? ... There’s a legitimate dispute about the amount of restitution, but if victims have to travel up to court...clearly they would receive mileage.”
Garrison appealed, and in a 2-1 unpublished decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court on the mileage issue while upholding the trial court on other aspects of the restitution order.
Courts must order defendants to pay “full restitution” to the victims of the defendant’s crimes, the majority noted. “Both MCL 769.1a [a section of the Code of Criminal Procedure, governing orders of restitution] and the Crime Victim’s Rights Act (CVRA), MCL 780.751 et seq., provide that the sentencing court shall order a defendant to pay restitution in addition to any other penalty authorized by law.”
But, said the majority, neither of those statutes give courts authority to order defendants to pay their victims’ mileage. “This Court has previously held that neither MCL 769.1a nor the CVRA, MCL 780.766, authorizes the sentencing court to order a defendant to pay restitution to reimburse the victim for traveling expenses. People v Jones, 168 Mich App 191 (1988). We agree with the Jones court, and do not read either statute to provide a court with the authority to order the defendant to pay such expenses. Therefore, the trial court abused its discretion in ordering defendant to pay for travel expenses.”
The dissenting judge disagreed: “The purpose of restitution is to make victims whole for the losses they have suffered as a result of a defendant’s criminal course of conduct. … I believe that the designation of victims’ travel expenses as restitution is allowable under MCL 780.766. It serves the intended purpose of making victims as whole as possible.”
In an order dated May 3, 2013, the Supreme Court said it would hear oral argument on whether to grant the victims’ application for leave to appeal or take other action. The Court directed, “At oral argument, the parties shall address whether the victims’ travel expenses were properly included in the amount of restitution that the defendant was ordered to pay. See MCL 780.766 and MCL 769.1a.”