The Appellate Group

State v. Garcia

State v. Garcia, 2023 UT App 143 (Christiansen Forster, J.)

Criminal Restitution

Garcia pleaded guilty to burglary for entering a home with the intent to commit a theft. He agreed to pay $1,000 in restitution and also agreed that restitution would be kept open for additional claims. The district court later ordered him to pay an additional $20,000 at the State’s request. On appeal, Garcia argued that the State did not meet its burden to establish that his admitted criminal conduct was the proximate cause of all of the homeowner’s damages and losses. The Utah Court of Appeals agreed and vacated the district court’s restitution order, holding:

  • Without proof that Garcia committed theft or damaged the home, the homeowner’s damages were not proximately caused by Garcia who merely entered the home with the intent to commit a theft.
  • Judicial tip: Although causation is generally a question of fact, the district court may decide an issue of proximate cause as a matter of law where there are no issues of fact as to the causation element.
  • Appellate Practice tip: Whether the district court decides the issue of proximate cause as a factual matter or as a legal determination will affect the standard of review on appeal.

Read the full court opinion