This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).






State of Minnesota,





Nicketa Woodson,



Filed May 23, 2006

Reversed and remanded

Halbrooks, Judge



Ramsey County District Court

File No. T2-04-24955




Kari L. McCrea, Assistant Ramsey County Public Defender, 101 East 5th Street, Suite 1808, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)


Manuel J. Cervantes, St. Paul City Attorney, John H. Stechmann, Assistant City Attorney, 15 West Kellogg Boulevard, 500 City Hall and Courthouse, St. Paul, MN 55102  (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Collins, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant challenges the district court’s order requiring her to pay restitution in the amount of $4,706.27.  Appellant alleges that the district court abused its discretion by ordering restitution because the other party’s loss was not directly caused by the offense to which appellant pleaded guilty.  In addition, appellant asserts that neither the district court nor the probation department ever determined that restitution is warranted in this case.  Because no determination was made regarding whether restitution is appropriate in this case, the district court’s findings are not supported by the record.  We reverse and remand.


            Appellant Nicketa Woodson and Robert Tran were involved in a motor-vehicle accident.  The car that Robert Tran was driving was owned by his mother, Thu Van Tran (Tran).  Appellant was cited for misdemeanor driving without insurance and unsafe change of course.  Appellant pleaded guilty to driving without insurance, and respondent State of Minnesota dismissed the unsafe-change-of-course charge.  The conditions of appellant’s plea included dismissal of the remaining charge, a stayed sentence, a one-year probation term with no same or similar offenses, and the district court’s referral of the case to the probation department to determine whether restitution was appropriate.  The parties agreed to these terms, and the district court accepted the plea.

            Following appellant’s plea, but prior to the restitution order, Tran filed a civil conciliation-court action against appellant, seeking to recover the cost of repairing her vehicle.  The conciliation-court referee determined that Robert Tran was at fault for the accident; as a result, the referee concluded that appellant was not liable for Tran’s damages.  Tran then submitted an affidavit of restitution to the probation department seeking the sum of $5,789.67.  Appellant responded with a motion to challenge restitution on the grounds that liability had not been established at the plea hearing and because she had prevailed on liability in the conciliation-court proceeding.  The district court held a contested restitution hearing on the issue of damages but refused to take evidence on the issue of liability.  The probation officer testified at the hearing that she did not make a threshold determination of whether or not restitution was appropriate because she believed that restitution had already been ordered.  The probation officer further testified that she determined the reasonable amount of restitution to be $4,406.27 based on the value of Tran’s vehicle. 

            The district court ordered restitution and stated that both the conciliation-court judgment and the issue of liability were irrelevant.  The district court found that “the owner of the vehicle that was struck by [appellant] submitted a request for restitution.”  Additionally, the district court found that “Ramsey County Probation concluded that [appellant] should pay restitution in the amount of $4,406.72.”  The district court found that appellant had the means to pay restitution in the form of monthly payments and ordered restitution in the amount of $4,706.27.  This appeal follows.


            Chapter 611A of the Minnesota Statutes provides a comprehensive set of rights, programs, and agencies for crime victims.  In part, it states:  “A victim of a crime has the right to receive restitution as part of the disposition of a criminal charge . . . if the offender is convicted.”  Minn. Stat. § 611A.04, subd. 1(a) (2004).  And “[t]he [district] court has broad discretion in imposing restitution.”  State v. Olson, 381 N.W.2d 899, 900 (Minn. App. 1986). The intent behind ordering restitution is to “compensate a crime victim for his or her loss by restoring the victim to his or her original financial condition.”  State v. Terpstra, 546 N.W.2d 280, 283 (Minn. 1996).  The definition of a victim for restitution purposes is “a natural person who incurs loss or harm as a result of a crime.”  Minn. Stat. § 611A.01(b) (2004).  But “[r]estitution is only proper where the victim’s losses are ‘directly caused’ by the conduct for which the defendant was convicted.”  State v. Latimer, 604 N.W.2d 103, 105 (Minn. App. 1999).  Moreover, there must be a sufficient factual basis in the record supporting the restitution order.  State v. Fader, 358 N.W.2d 42, 48 (Minn. 1984).

            “The court, in determining whether to order restitution and the amount of the restitution, shall consider the following factors: (1) the amount of economic loss sustained by the victim as a result of the offense; and (2) the income, resources, and obligations of the defendant.”  Minn. Stat. § 611A.045, subd. 1(a) (2004).  In addition,

the offender shall have the burden to produce evidence if the offender intends to challenge the amount of restitution or specific items of restitution or their dollar amounts. . . .  A dispute as to the proper amount or type of restitution must be resolved by the court by the preponderance of the evidence.  The burden of demonstrating the amount of loss sustained by a victim as a result of the offense and the appropriateness of a particular type of restitution is on the prosecution.


Id., subd. 3(a) (2004).

            Here, appellant pleaded guilty to misdemeanor failure to provide insurance.  After a contested restitution hearing, the district court issued its findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order.  Two of the district court’s factual findings state that (1) appellant’s vehicle struck Tran’s vehicle (a finding that implies liability) and (2) the probation department “concluded that [appellant] should pay restitution.”  Those findings are not supported by the record in this matter.

            The district court left open the question of whether or not restitution was warranted by stating at the plea hearing, “The second condition is the matter goes to probation to determine whether or not there should be any restitution owed to the driver . . . .”  But the probation officer proceeded under the assumption that the district court had ordered restitution.  Had the probation officer approached this matter as one that involved an initial determination of whether or not Tran was a “victim” under the statute, based on a liability determination, the officer testified that she would have looked at the factual record, including “[w]hether or not the other party was ticketed for an offense; the police report, if it is clear from the police report whether one party was at fault or not.”  That inquiry did not occur here. 

Because there was never a liability determination in this matter, the district court’s finding that “Ramsey County Probation concluded that [appellant] should pay restitution” is not supported by the record.  We therefore reverse and remand.  On remand, the district court may hold an evidentiary hearing or refer the matter to the probation department for a recommendation.  But ultimately the district court should determine whether restitution is warranted.

            Reversed and remanded.

* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.