Residential Contractor Without a License In Arizona

It is a class one misdemeanor in Arizona to act as a residential contractor without a license. See A.R.S. 32-1151 (1996). This special action presents the question whether an unlicensed contractor convicted of that crime may be required, by order of restitution, to reimburse a contracting homeowner for the economic damages that the homeowner suffered from the contractor's incomplete and faulty work. In sentencing a criminal offender, an Arizona court must order restitution to any victim who has suffered "economic loss" that "would not have been incurred but for the offense." See A.R.S. 13-603(C), 13-105(14) (1999). Pure "but for causation" does not suffice, however, for losses so remote or indirect as to be categorized as "consequential damages" are not recoverable. See 13-105(14); State v. Morris, 173 Ariz. 14, 18, 839 P.2d 434, 438 (App. 1992). In Morris we elaborated on the causal nexus that distinguishes recoverable from non-recoverable losses, holding that restitution may be ordered when actual damages are a "direct result," or natural and foreseeable consequence, of a defendant's conduct, taking "the nature and character of the criminal activity" into account. Id. at 18, 839 P.2d at 438. The superior court, finding no direct causal nexus between Porter's crime and the homeowners' damages, analogized this case to State ex rel. McDougall v. Superior Court, 186 Ariz. 218, 920 P.2d 784 (App. 1996). In McDougall, we held that a conviction for leaving the scene of an injury accident did not support an order of restitution to the victims of the accident. the victims' injuries, we stated, neither resulted from nor were aggravated by the criminal act of leaving the scene. Id. at 220, 920 P.2d at 786. "Both the constitution and statutes of Arizona require restitution only where the injury is caused by the criminal conduct for which defendant was convicted." Id.