Pleading No Contest to Hit and Run In California

People v. Carbajal (1995) 10 Cal.4th 1114, held in a case where a defendant pled no contest to "hit-and-run" that it was within the trial court's discretion to condition probation on payment of restitution to the owner of property damaged in the accident from which the defendant unlawfully fled. Carbajal said, "We determined that an order for restitution, which attempts to make a victim whole, 'has generally been deemed a deterrent to future criminality,' and concluded the court is not limited to the transactions or amounts of which the defendant is actually convicted." (Carbajal, supra, 10 Cal.4th at p. 1123.) In addition to finding the restitution was related to the crime of leaving the scene of the accident (the regulatory purpose of which was to provide others with information needed to pursue civil remedies for damages), the Supreme Court also concluded restitution was related to the goal of deterring future criminality in that it acted "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." (Id. at p. 1124.) There was no question as to the defendant's responsibility for the loss, since he conceded he committed a negligent act of driving that caused damage to the victim's parked car. (Ibid.) the California Supreme Court rejected the notion that a restitution order was limited to losses caused by the offense of which a defendant was convicted or as a result of an act committed with the same state of mind as the offense of which he was convicted. Instead, the court found that "the restitution condition must be reasonably related either to the crime of which the defendant is convicted or to the goal of deterring future criminality." (Id. at p. 1123.) The Court explained: "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 citation, by conduct underlying dismissed and uncharged counts citation, and by conduct resulting in an acquittal citation. There is no requirement the restitution order be limited to the exact amount of the loss in which the defendant is actually found culpable." (Id. at p. 1121.)