Colorado’s Supreme Court justices will add another case to their review of the state’s restitution law, announcing on Monday they will further analyze the 91-day limit on imposing restitution payments from the date of conviction.
Last month the court agreed to hear a similar case from Garfield County in which a judge kept the window open for seven and a half months to determine a convicted robber’s restitution amount. In that matter, People v. Weeks, the justices will evaluate what the “good cause” exception to the 91-day deadline means, and whether it existed in the case.
For the case accepted on Monday, the Supreme Court will look at whether the 91-day limit refers only to the prosecution’s window to determine a restitution amount, and not a judge’s responsibility to enter a restitution order. The law as written only specifies that restitution "shall be determined" within the window unless good cause exists to extend it.
The issue stems from a 2014 incident in Boulder County in which prosecutors alleged Jonathan D. Roddy took photos of the inside of his ex-wife’s home without her permission and in violation of a court order. An investigator concluded that he had.
After a series of other incidents involving Roddy and his current wife reportedly accessing his ex-wife’s communications through internet services, Roddy received a charge of stalking and computer crime. Instead, he pleaded guilty in July 2016 to first degree criminal trespass for entering the ex-wife's home.
He received a two-year deferred judgment, meaning the charge would be dismissed upon successful completion of probationary terms. However, 15 months later, in October 2017, the Boulder County district judge ordered Roddy to pay $688,535 in restitution to reimburse all attorney fees and investigation costs.
In considering Roddy’s argument that the judge acted in violation of the deadline, a three-member court of appeals panel decided that the 91-day window instead referred to the time the prosecution had to request restitution — which, in Roddy’s case, they did after 90 days.
“The court found that good cause had been shown to allow the People to file their amended restitution requests because the victim continued to incur and pay attorney fees,” wrote Judge Diana Terry in an April 23 opinion from this year. “Given this good cause finding, the court must necessarily have found good cause to likewise extend its own determination of restitution.”
Writing separately, Judge Ted C. Tow III agreed with the conclusion, but requested the Supreme Court and the General Assembly better define the restitution window. Noting that an appeals panel in the Weeks case reached the opposition conclusion as the Roddy judges, Tow called the 91-day window a “relatively short time period” to determine the amends for a victim, and believed it logical for a court to have flexibility to issue the final order.
The opposing sides in Roddy's case had differing views about the clarity of the law.
"In our view, the restitution statute is clear and unambiguous," said Adam Mueller, an attorney at Haddon, Morgan and Foreman representing Roddy. "The 91-day time limit in the restitution statute applies to the district court because the prosecution already has a time limit of its own."
He pointed to a subsequent section of the law specifically giving prosecutors a 91-day window, arguing that the other 91-day deadline must apply to some other entity, namely the courts.
Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty issued a statement indicating he was pleased the high court will decide the law's interpretation.
"Currently, due to the ambiguity in the statute, there has been an inconsistent approach throughout the state," he said. "It is my hope and expectation that the Colorado Supreme Court will provide the lower courts with clear and necessary direction on this issue.”
The Supreme Court will also consider whether a judge may impose restitution stemming from charges dismissed in a plea agreement.
The case is People v. Roddy.