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Restitution Order Affirmed in Part and Remanded for Hearing on Defendant’s Ability to Pay

In State v. Vezina, 2015 VT 56 (April 10, 2015), the Vermont Supreme Court reversed a restitution order for a hearing on the specific issue of defendant’s ability to pay, but affirmed the trial court’s decision regarding value of the stolen musical equipment.

Issue: Defendant challenged the restitution order that resulted from his guilty plea for theft of seven pieces of musical equipment.

Holding: The trial court has broad discretion in determining the amount of restitution, and the trial court did not abuse that discretion. Restitution was properly calculated in this case based upon the full purchase price of the items. However, the trial court erred by failing to make specific findings on defendant’s ability to pay, which the court is obligated to do by statute (13 V.S.A. 7043(d)(2)).

Concurrence: Morris, Supr. J (ret.) concurred specifically to disagree with the dissent.

Dissent: Dooley, J., filed a lengthy dissent arguing that, during a two-day hearing, the defendant never raised the issue of inability to pay. He argued that the Court had misinterpreted the statute at issue, and that an earlier case regarding that statute, State v. Sausville, should have been overruled or distinguished.

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