The Appellate Group

State v. Watson

State v. Watson, 2021 UT App 37 (Orme, J.)

Criminal Law

After a bout of road rage gone wrong, the defendant was convicted of reckless driving and assault. The sentencing court ordered the defendant to pay the Utah Office for Victims of Crime (UOVC) $1,980 in restitution for victim’s 25 mental health therapy sessions. The defendant requested a hearing. At the hearing, the UOVC Restitution Specialist testified about standard OUVC procedures and that a Claims Analyst approved payment to victim based upon a determination of “crime-relatedness.” Over defendant’s objection, the court found causation. On appeal, The Utah Court of Appeals reversed, holding:

  • The State did not prove that there was a causal relationship between victim’s assault and each of the 25 mental health therapy sessions. The State should have admitted the materials the Claims Analyst relied on, testimony from the victim, or testimony from the therapist.
  • Practice Point: A UOVC Restitution Specialist cannot vouch for a victim’s treatment plan or its crime-relatedness.
  • Practice Point: “Crime-relatedness” is a lesser standard than causation. Thus, when a district court relies on UOVC’s determinations, it erroneously substitutes UOVC’s judgment for its own.

Read the full court opinion