Monday, January 31, 2011

Pleading the Way to Restitution

State v. Plante, 2010 VT 116

By Christine Mathias

Defendant, who was charged with burglary and grand larceny, entered a plea agreement with the State, contingent on defendant's plea of nolo contendre. Apparently Defendant did not know that part of the plea agreement meant that he would have to repay the victim all of the money stolen, minus the $500 covered by insurance, totaling $32,300. The only issue on appeal is whether a defendant must pay restitution where the conviction is based on a plea of no contest.

This was not a difficult case for the SCOV to resolve. Rule 11 of the Vermont Rules of Criminal Procedure states that where a no contest plea is accepted by the court the court may "order the defendant to make restitution to any victim of the offense." The SCOV also points out that for just about every purpose, except for the admission of guilt in other court proceedings based on the underlying conduct, a no contest plea is treated like a guilty plea. This is based on the understanding that the no contest plea "reflects the defendant's agreement that, should the matter go to trial, the State has sufficient admissible evidence to convince a jury of the defendant's guilt."

Defendant then went on to claim that the State did not prove there was a direct link between his actions and the victim's loss. The SCOV explained that the restitution hearing, which determined the uninsured direct loss of the victim, was enough to establish a link between Defendant and the $32,300.

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