People v. Carbajal

In People v. Carbajal (1995) 10 Cal. 4th 1114, 43 Cal. Rptr. 2d 681, 899 P.2d 67, the defendant pleaded no contest to leaving the scene of an accident, commonly known as "hit-and-run." The trial court granted the defendant probation, but denied the People's request to order as a condition of probation that the defendant pay restitution to the person whose car was damaged in the accident. (10 Cal.4th at pp. 1118-1119.) The People appealed. Both the appellate department of the superior court and the Court of Appeal held that the trial court had discretion to order restitution. The Supreme Court granted the defendant's petition for review to resolve the issue. ( Id. at pp. 1119-1120.) In affirming the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court stated: "California courts have long interpreted the trial courts' discretion to encompass the ordering of restitution as a condition of probation even when the loss was not necessarily caused by the criminal conduct underlying the conviction. Under certain circumstances, restitution has been found proper where the loss was caused by related conduct not resulting in a conviction, by conduct underlying dismissed and uncharged counts and by conduct resulting in an acquittal. There is no requirement the restitution order be limited to the exact amount of the loss in which the defendant is actually found culpable, nor is there any requirement the order reflect the amount of damages that might be recoverable in a civil action. Citation." ( Carbajal, supra, 10 Cal.4th at p. 1121.) In approving the restitution condition of probation, the Carbajal court noted that the condition was reasonably related to the crime of which the defendant was convicted. "By leaving the scene of the accident, the fleeing driver deprives the nonfleeing driver of his or her right to have responsibility for the accident adjudicated in an orderly way according to the rules of law. This commonly entails a real, economic loss, not just an abstract affront. Among other things, the crime imposes on the nonfleeing driver the additional costs of locating the fleeing driver and, in some cases, the total costs of the accident." ( Carbajal, supra, 10 Cal.4th at p. 1124.) The court also found that the restitution condition was related to the goal of deterring future criminality. "By seeking to force the defendant to accept the responsibility he attempted to evade by leaving the scene of the accident without identifying himself, the restitution condition acts both as a deterrent to future attempts to evade his legal and financial duties as a motorist and as a rehabilitative measure tailored to correct the behavior leading to his conviction. A trial court may reasonably determine that a restitution order to pay the person whose property was damaged in the accident is better suited to the rehabilitation of the probationer than an order to pay the Restitution Fund. 'Restitution is an effective rehabilitative penalty because it forces the defendant to confront, in concrete terms, the harm his actions have caused. Such a penalty will affect the defendant differently than a traditional fine, paid to the State as an abstract and impersonal entity, and often calculated without regard to the harm the defendant has caused. Similarly, the direct relation between the harm and the punishment gives restitution a more precise deterrent effect than a traditional fine.'" ( Carbajal, supra, 10 Cal.4th at p. 1124.) In People v. Cervantes (1984) 154 Cal.App.3d 353, 355, the defendant pleaded guilty to being an