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Missouri Supreme Court: Restitution Must be for Losses “Due to” Crime of Conviction

The en banc Missouri Supreme Court held that a trial court may order restitution only for “losses ‘due to’ the offense for which the defendant has been found (or pleaded) guilty.”

Under Mo. Rev. Stat. 559.105.1, “any person who has been found guilty of or has pled guilty to an offense may be ordered ... to make restitution to the victim for the victim’s losses due to such offense.”

In 2014, numerous items of personal property were stolen from the apartment of a woman identified as “CM” Police were notified that fellow tenant Anthony Bowman possessed some of the stolen property.

A search of Bowman’s apartment revealed several items belonging to CM, which were returned to her undamaged. There was no other evidence that Bowman was guilty of the theft from CM’s apartment or that he had any other items of her property.

Bowman was charged with one felony count of receiving stolen property. The only items identified in the charge were those discovered in his apartment and returned to CM. Ultimately, Bowman pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of receiving stolen property and the court suspended imposition of the sentence pending two years of probation.

Initially, the sentencing court did not order restitution as a condition of probation. Fifteen months later, however, the state filed a motion to modify Bowman’s probation to add a condition of restitution. The state sought an order that Bowman pay $4,064 to compensate CM for items that were stolen from her apartment but not recovered plus a $75 restitution collection fee, for a total of $4,139.

No evidence was offered connecting Bowman to CM’s unrecovered stolen property. Nevertheless, the court granted the state’s motion, modified the terms of Bowman’s probation and added a condition that he pay $4,139, at a rate of $240 per month.

Bowman sought a writ of prohibition, claiming the trial court lacked authority to add the restitution condition. The Missouri Supreme Court agreed on April 4, 2017, holding that “[b]ecause the state failed to show that CM’s unrecovered losses were ‘due to’ Bowman’s offense, the trial court had no authority to require Bowman to make good on those losses as a condition of his probation.”

“Here,” the Court added, “there was no evidence connecting Bowman to CM’s unrecovered losses, nor was there any evidence that CM’s unrecovered losses were ‘due to’ or ‘because of’ the misdemeanor offense of receiving stolen property to which Bowman pleaded guilty.” See: State ex rel. Bowman v. Inman, 516 S.W.3d 367 (Mo. 2017). 

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Related legal case

State ex rel. Bowman v. Inman