211 P.3d 41 (Colo. 2009), 08SC34, Dubois v. People

Docket Nº:08SC34.
Citation:211 P.3d 41
Opinion Judge:MULLARKEY, Chief Justice.
Party Name:Jeffrey Wayne DUBOIS, Petitioner v. The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Respondent.
Attorney:Douglas K. Wilson, Colorado State Public Defender, Ned R. Jaeckle, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Petitioner. John W. Suthers, Attorney General, John J. Fuerst III, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Respondent.
Case Date:June 08, 2009
Court:Supreme Court of Colorado
 
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211 P.3d 41 (Colo. 2009)

Jeffrey Wayne DUBOIS, Petitioner

v.

The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Respondent.

No. 08SC34.

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc.

June 8, 2009

Rehearing Denied June 29, 2009.

Douglas K. Wilson, Colorado State Public Defender, Ned R. Jaeckle, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Petitioner.

John W. Suthers, Attorney General, John J. Fuerst III, Senior Assistant Attorney General,

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Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Respondent.

OPINION

MULLARKEY, Chief Justice.

I. Introduction

We granted certiorari in this case to review whether a deputy sheriff and Alamosa County are eligible for compensation under the restitution statute, section 18-1.3-602(4)(a), C.R.S. (2008), as victims of the defendant's crime of vehicular eluding, where the deputy was involved in a single car accident while en route to respond to another deputy's call for assistance. The trial court found both the deputy sheriff and Alamosa County to be victims for purposes of the restitution statute, and accordingly ordered the defendant, Jeffrey Dubois, to pay restitution to those parties. The court of appeals subsequently affirmed the trial court's order in a published opinion. People v. Dubois, No. 06CA1089, __ P.3d __, 2007 WL 3378339 (Colo.App. Nov. 15, 2007). Because we find the deputy sheriff and Alamosa County to be within the statutory meaning of " victim" in the restitution statute, we affirm the court of appeals.

II. Facts and Procedural History

Pursuant to a plea agreement, the defendant, Jeffrey Dubois, pled guilty to, and was convicted of, vehicular eluding for attempting to elude Alamosa County Deputy Mark Thompson. The parties agreed to resolve the contested issue of restitution at a hearing. The trial court made the following findings of fact. Deputy Thompson of the Alamosa County Sheriff's Department responded to a call of domestic violence and attempted to arrest Dubois. Dubois fled in his car and Deputy Thompson gave chase. Deputy Thompson radioed his dispatcher and asked for assistance from any available Costilla County deputies or state troopers in the area because the chase was proceeding into Costilla County and away from Alamosa. Deputy Benavidez is an Alamosa County deputy. She was at home but on duty at the time she heard the call for assistance. Although not specifically requested to do so, Deputy Benavidez immediately set out in her car to assist Deputy Thompson. In the course of her pursuit, Deputy Benavidez was involved in a single car accident that resulted in the total destruction of her patrol car.

The trial court determined that because Deputy Benavidez was on duty, she had no choice but to respond to Deputy Thompson's call for assistance, even though not specifically requested to do so. As a result of this finding, the trial court determined both Deputy Benavidez and the Alamosa County Sheriff's Department were entitled to an award of restitution. Accordingly, the trial court ordered restitution in the amount of $171.92 to Deputy Benavidez for personal losses, and $22,509.23 to Alamosa County for the loss of the patrol car. The court of appeals affirmed, finding that Deputy Benavidez and the Alamosa County Sheriff's Department qualify as " victims" as defined by the restitution statute. Dubois, No. 06CA1089 slip op. at 2, __ P.3d at __, 2007 WL 3378339. Moreover, the court of appeals found that Dubois's conduct was the proximate cause of Deputy Benavidez's crash and therefore held the trial court's award of restitution valid. Id. 1 This court granted certiorari to determine whether Deputy Benavidez and the Alamosa County Sheriff's Department are " victims" for purposes of the restitution statute, and now holds that they are. Accordingly, the decision of the court of appeals is affirmed.

III. Analysis

Dubois argues that the statutory term " victim" does not apply to Deputy Benavidez or Alamosa County because neither is the party against whom Dubois's crime was perpetrated. Dubois asserts that because he

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was convicted of eluding Deputy Thompson, not Deputy Benavidez, only Deputy Thompson is a " victim" for purposes of a restitution award. We disagree.

The issue presented requires the interpretation of subsection 18-1.3-602(4)(a), specifically the term " victim" for purposes of restitution. Interpretation of statutes is a question of law and therefore subject to de novo review. Robles v. People, 811 P.2d 804, 806 (Colo.1991). In construing a statute, we aim to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the General Assembly. Id. " If the language in the statute is clear and the intent of the General Assembly may be discerned with reasonable certainty, it is not necessary to resort to other rules of statutory interpretation." McKinney v. Kautzky, 801 P.2d 508, 509 (Colo.1990). In this case, resort to tools of statutory construction is appropriate because the statutory language, as we will explain, is less than clear.

Subsection 18-1.3-602(4)(a) states, " ‘ Victim’ means any person aggrieved by the conduct of an offender," and lists a number of non-exclusive examples, none of which is relevant to the present case. Although we find this statutory language unclear because it is potentially boundless, we conclude that Alamosa County and Deputy Benavidez fall within the meaning of " victim."

Dubois asserts that this court's precedent established in two 1980s cases, People v. Deadmond, 683 P.2d 763 (Colo.1984), and People v. Quinonez, 735 P.2d 159 (Colo.1987), establishes that a sentencing court can only award restitution to the direct victim of the criminal act. However, the use of the term " victim" for purposes of restitution has undergone several changes by the General Assembly since those cases were decided, casting doubt on their continuing validity. As such, a review of these changes is warranted.

The first relevant case in this area is People v. Deadmond, where this court held restitution payments were authorized " only to the direct victims of criminal conduct-the person or entity whose injuries resulted from the conduct alleged as the basis for criminal...

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