State Of Vt. v. Bohannon, 08-508.

Docket NºNo. 08-508.
Citation2010 VT 22, 996 A.2d 196
Case DateMarch 11, 2010
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Vermont

996 A.2d 196
2010 VT 22

STATE of Vermont
v.
Brian BOHANNON.

No. 08-508.

Supreme Court of Vermont.

March 11, 2010.


996 A.2d 197
William H. Sorrell, Attorney General, and Kevin O. Leske, Assistant Attorney General, Montpelier, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Allison N. Fulcher of Martin & Associates, Barre, for Defendant-Appellant.

Present: REIBER, C.J., DOOLEY, JOHNSON, SKOGLUND and BURGESS, JJ.

¶ 1. JOHNSON, J.

At the conclusion of a probation violation merits hearing, defendant was found to have violated the conditions of his probation by leaving the state of Vermont without permission or notice to his parole officer and taking up residence in the state of Washington. The Department of Corrections (DOC) subsequently moved for an order requiring defendant to pay restitution to the DOC for the costs of extraditing defendant from Washington to Vermont. The Lamoille District Court granted this motion, and defendant appeals, arguing that violation of probation is not a “crime” and that extradition costs flowing from a probation violation do not fall within the ambit of the restitution statute. Because we agree that a probation violation by itself is not a crime for the purposes of the restitution statute, we

996 A.2d 198
vacate the order awarding restitution to the DOC.

¶ 2. The following facts are undisputed. In August 2004, defendant was convicted of unlawful restraint and simple assault in Lamoille District Court. He was sentenced to one to three years of jail time, all but thirty-two days of which were suspended. Defendant was placed on probation, which included the following conditions:

G. If you change your address or move, you must tell your probation officer within two (2) days.
I. You can not leave the State without written permission of your probation officer.

¶ 3. In July 2007, defendant failed to appear for a violation of probation merits hearing. In August 2007, defendant's probation officer requested an arrest warrant, and in August 2008, defendant was located at the Pierce County Jail in Tacoma, Washington. In September 2008, defendant's probation officer prepared and issued a Governor's warrant to extradite defendant from Washington to Vermont.

¶ 4. Defendant's probation was subsequently revoked. The DOC then filed a motion in the Lamoille District Court requesting a restitution judgment order pursuant to 13 V.S.A. § 7043(a) to recover the $4,416 it incurred in transporting defendant from Washington to Vermont. The trial court conducted a hearing on this motion and ruled that the DOC was entitled to restitution. The court concluded that “this probation violation situation is not materially different than a new criminal charge for purposes of [a restitution] proceeding.” With regard to whether defendant had the ability to pay the restitution amount, the court held that “[g]iven the fact that he is incarcerated, I will not make an order for collection at the present time and will not make a determination on ability to pay because those circumstances could very well be different when and if a collection attempt is made upon his release.”

¶ 5. On appeal, defendant questions the district court's interpretation of § 7043(a). Specifically, defendant argues that to be entitled to restitution, the injured party must be a victim of a crime and that because violation of a condition of probation is not a crime in and of itself, the district court erred in holding that the DOC was entitled to collect restitution as reimbursement for extraditing defendant from Washington. Whether the district court properly construed the controlling criminal statutes is a question of law that we review de novo. See State v. Bonvie, 2007 VT 82, ¶ 6, 182 Vt. 216, 936 A.2d 1291; State v. Eldredge, 2006 VT 80, ¶ 7, 180 Vt. 278, 910 A.2d 816.

¶ 6. The relevant restitution statute provides for restitution to be considered “in every case in which a victim of a crime ... has suffered a material loss.” 13 V.S.A. § 7043(a)(1). The statute goes on to define material loss as “uninsured property loss, uninsured out-of-pocket monetary loss, uninsured lost wages, and uninsured medical expenses.” Id. § 7043(a)(2). Section 5301(4) defines “victim” as “a person who sustains physical, emotional or financial injury or death as a direct result of the commission or attempted commission of a crime or act of delinquency and shall also include the family members of a minor, incompetent or a homicide victim.” The purpose of restitution is to compensate the victim, rather than to punish the defendant. See State v. VanDusen, 166 Vt. 240, 244, 691 A.2d 1053, 1055 (1997) (noting that restitution statute “is based on the principle of compensation to the victim, rather than punishment of the defendant”). Further, we have held that the statute is

996 A.2d 199
not to be used as a device “to shift the costs of prosecution to the defendant by providing a detour around the statutes placing that burden on the State.” State v. Forant, 168 Vt. 217, 221, 719 A.2d 399, 402 (1998).

¶ 7. Whether the district court's restitution order was proper here turns on whether a probation violation is a separate crime out of which extradition costs necessarily result. The district court, applying our analysis in State v. Lewis, 167 Vt. 533, 711 A.2d 669 (1998), concluded it is. The facts of Lewis, however, are readily distinguishable from the instant case. In Lewis, we held that, under our restitution statute, the DOC was entitled to reimbursement for the costs of extraditing a defendant after he had failed to return from a work furlough program and escaped to North Carolina in violation of 13 V.S.A. § 1501. 167 Vt. at 540, 711 A.2d at 673-74. We concluded that the DOC was a victim for the purposes of the restitution statute, and that it had suffered a material loss in the form of the costs of extradition as a direct result of the defendant's escape. Id. Defendant argues that the factual situation in Lewis-most notably, the fact that the underlying offense involved a separate criminal charge of escape-differs from the noncriminal probation violation here. We agree.

¶ 8. According to the law governing probation, “[a]fter passing sentence, a court may suspend all or part of the sentence and place the person so sentenced in the care and custody of the commissioner upon such conditions and for such time as it may prescribe.” 28 V.S.A. § 205(a)(1). Thus, probation conditions operate as a contract between the probationer and the court. See State v. Page, 171 Vt. 110, 114, 757 A.2d 1038, 1041-42 (2000) ( “[W]e must construe the probation agreement according to contract principles ....”); State v. Lockwood, 160 Vt. 547, 552, 632 A.2d 655, 659 (1993) (“Probation is intended to allow a defendant an opportunity for rehabilitation at the same time it protects society.”); State v. St. Francis, 160 Vt. 352, 355, 628 A.2d 556, 558 (1993) (noting that conditions included in probation order formed contract between probationer and court); State v. Hale, 137 Vt. 162, 164, 400 A.2d 996, 998 (1979) (noting that purpose of probation is “to provide the opportunity for a defendant to voluntarily condition his behavior according to the requirements of the law and to test his ability to do so”). If a defendant chooses to ignore the conditions of his probation, he breaches his part of the bargain and his probation may be revoked.

¶ 9. Probation is thus “a conditional exemption from punishment, rather than a part of the penalty.” Williams v. State, 72 Md.App. 233, 528 A.2d 507, 508 (Ct.Spec.App.1987) (superseded by statute on other grounds); see also Jones v. United States, 560 A.2d 513, 516 (D.C.1989) (“[T]he only appropriate sanction [for a violation of probation] is a withdrawal of the previously afforded favorable treatment rather than the imposition of an additional penalty.”). Probation is, in effect, a second chance for a probationer to avoid a normal penalty attached to a criminal violation and prove that he can function as a law-abiding citizen. Upon a breach of a probation condition, a defendant effectively forfeits the benefits of probation and is put back in the circumstances he would have faced but for the probation (i.e., the original sentence).

¶ 10. On its face, the restitution statute simply is not applicable to...

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17 cases
  • State v. Baker, 16–326
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • 6 Octubre 2017
    ...component of restitution's proximate causation analysis. We have established that restitution is not punishment. See State v. Bohannon, 2010 VT 22, ¶ 6, 187 Vt. 410, 996 A.2d 196. It is, however, part of a criminal sentence. 13 V.S.A. § 7043(p) ("An obligation to pay restitution is part of ......
  • State v. Dwight, 17-075
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • 27 Julio 2018
    ...impermissibly punitive. "The purpose of restitution is to compensate the victim, rather than to punish the defendant." State v. Bohannon, 2010 VT 22, ¶ 6, 187 Vt. 410, 996 A.2d 196. "But restitution, as part of sentencing and in terms of its effects and consequences, is not purely compensat......
  • State v. Blake, 16–376
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • 11 Agosto 2017
    ...criminal context. Defendant correctly notes that we have long held that punishment is not a purpose of restitution. See State v. Bohannon, 2010 VT 22, ¶ 6, 187 Vt. 410, 996 A.2d 196 ("The purpose of restitution is to compensate the victim, rather than to punish the defendant."). Broadly, ho......
  • State v. Blake, 2016-376
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • 11 Agosto 2017
    ...criminal context. Defendant correctly notes that we have long held that punishment is not a purpose of restitution. See State v. Bohannon, 2010 VT 22, ¶ 6, 187 Vt. 410, 996 A.2d 196 ("The purpose of restitution is to compensate the victim, rather than to punish the defendant."). Broadly, ho......
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