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State v. England

Court of Appeals of Utah

September 8, 2017

State of Utah, Appellee,
Kristopher England, Appellant.

         Third District Court, West Jordan Department The Honorable Charlene Barlow No. 131401508

          Nathalie S. Skibine and Wesley J. Howard, Attorneys for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and William M. Hains, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Jill M. Pohlman authored this Opinion, in which Judges Gregory K. Orme and David N. Mortensen concurred.

          POHLMAN, JUDGE

         ¶1 Kristopher England appeals the district court's calculation of restitution in connection with his conviction for theft. We vacate the restitution order and remand for further proceedings.


         ¶2 Sometime before 2012, Victim bought a 1995 Eagle Talon for $2, 500 to customize and give to his son when he turned sixteen. Over the course of the next two years, Victim periodically would leave the car at an auto shop so that Mechanic could make requested modifications. At some point, the timing belt on the car failed, and Mechanic removed the engine and sent it to a machinist to be rebuilt. During the year and a half that followed, the Talon remained at the auto shop, and Mechanic would work on it as Victim's invoices were paid. By July 2013, Victim had paid Mechanic approximately $9, 000 for modifications, only some of which had been installed.

         ¶3 England assumed ownership of the auto shop before the car's modifications were complete. In July 2013, without Victim's consent, England sold the Talon to a salvage yard for $300. At the time of the sale, the car had no engine; the engine had not yet returned from the machine shop to be reinstalled.[1]

         ¶4 The State charged England with theft and theft by deception for selling the Talon without Victim's permission. England pleaded guilty to the theft charge, and the theft by deception charge was dismissed. As part of his sentence, the district court ordered England to pay Victim restitution. The State moved for an order of restitution in the amount of $13, 402.76. England objected to the amount, and a hearing was set.

         ¶5 During the two-day hearing, the parties offered competing valuations of the Talon. Early in the proceeding, the prosecutor explained that the State was seeking "not the market value, but . . . the value of the car, plus a lot of these items, " referring to the modifications installed by Mechanic. Victim testified that he paid $2, 500 for the Talon; Mechanic estimated the car's Kelley Blue Book value in 2011 to be "somewhere in [the range of] at least $5, 000 to 3, 500"; and the State introduced evidence based on the Kelley Blue Book that the 2014 value of a 1995 Eagle Talon in very good condition (but without Victim's modifications) was $2, 147. The State also introduced evidence identifying the modifications that were installed on the Talon and how much Victim paid for each one.[2]

         ¶6 England, in contrast, argued for a fair market valuation of the Talon in the condition it was in at the time he sold it to the salvage yard. England testified that he believed $300 was a fair valuation of the car, stating, "For the value of that car, for a frame of a . . . [1995] Eagle Talon with no motor, no driveline, no interior . . . $300 is about all you're going to get for that." England also asked Mechanic to estimate what he thought he could have sold the car for with its modifications, but without its engine, if Victim had come to him and said, "I don't want it anymore, it's not worth the hassle anymore. You take it and sell it for whatever you can get for it." Mechanic answered, "I would believe with all my work, labor, and everything and all the modifications, that car would have had to have been at least worth $3, 500."

         ¶7 During closing argument, the State retreated from its initial request for $13, 402.76 in restitution and conceded that Victim's damages were lower. Relying on Mechanic's testimony, the State asked the court to award restitution in the amount of $3, 500, plus the amounts paid for the installed modifications. The State argued that $3, 500 represented the "fair market value" of the car, [3] and that because Victim paid for but "never had the benefit of" the installed modifications, the restitution award should include "the replacement cost for those." The State also conceded that $2, 500 would be an appropriate starting point for the valuation when asked by the court if it would be appropriate to calculate restitution by adding the cost of the installed improvements to the car's purchase price.[4] England disagreed with the State's position and argued that Victim was entitled only to $300-the amount paid by the salvage yard.

         ¶8 The district court ordered England to pay $8, 277.87 in restitution. The district court arrived at this figure by adding together the Talon's $2, 500 purchase price and the $5, 777.87 Victim paid Mechanic for the installed modifications. In setting the award, the district court did not include any compensation for modifications that Victim had paid for but were not ...

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