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California: Hospital Billings for Injured Victim Are Not Subject To Restitution Order

The California Court of Appeal held that the sentence of a perpetrator of elder abuse injuries could not be enhanced to include a restitution order to repay the medical billings from his victim's hospital provider. The court ruled that, by statute, restitution only applies to a direct victim of the offense, not to a third party who rendered emergency medical services.

Tamari Slattery was convicted of elder abuse upon her dependent mother. In addition to her prison sentence, she was ordered, per California Penal Code § 1202.4(f), to pay restitution to Marshall Hospital, which had treated her mother's injuries. However, § 1202.4(k)(2) further specifies that restitution can only be ordered to the direct victim of an offense.

Although her claim was not preserved by objection at sentencing, it was yet allowed upon appeal as an "unauthorized sentence," which is always correctable. And while § 1202.4 permits recovery of a loss by an entity, it is limited to the case where that entity "is a direct victim of crime."

The court wrestled with the concern that such a distinction was "inefficient," but ultimately concluded that their narrow interpretation of "direct victim of a crime" was plainly intended by the Legislature and was not inconsistent with Art. I, § 28 of the California Constitution. Accordingly, the court struck the $876 restitution award to Marshall Hospital.

See: People v. Slattery, 167 Cal.App.4th 1091 (2008).

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Related legal case

People v. Slattery