State v. Erickson

State v. Erickson, 2018 MT 9 (Jan. 16, 2018) (Rice. J.) (5-0, aff’d, rev’d, & remanded)

Issue: Whether the district court erred in denying Erickson’s motion to modify his criminal judgment.

Short Answer: No; however, Erickson can seek relief under § 46-18-246 and is permitted to do so on remand.

Affirmed, reversed, and remanded

Facts: Erickson and Johnson were involved in a fight in 2011, which resulted in Johnson falling, hitting his head, and sustaining a serious injury. In February 2013, a jury found Erickson guilty of criminal endangerment, and this Court affirmed in 2014.

At sentencing in 2013, the state sought restitution for Johnson’s medical care and lost wages. Erickson argued that those issues were more appropriately addressed in a civil case, which Johnson had already filed. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas filed a lien for medical expenses it had paid on Johnson’s behalf. The district court determined that imposing full restitution was mandatory under § 46-18-241(1). It deferred imposition of sentence for six years, subject to various conditions. Among them was Condition 8, which required Erickson to pay $324,215.31 in restitution, plus a 10% administrative fee for disbursement to Johnson ($39,842.87), the Crime Victim Compensation Program ($4,737.08), and BCBS of Texas ($279,635.36).

In August 2013, Johnson signed a release of claims against Erickson in the civil litigation as consideration for a payment to him of $310,000, funded by $300,000 from Erickson’s homeowner’s insurance and $10,000 from Erickson. The release purported to satisfy Erickson’s restitution obligation under the criminal judgment.

In consideration of $103,333,33 from Johnson, BCBS released its lien in full satisfaction of the restitution obligation. After paying BCBS and his attorney fees, Johnson received $103,333.33. Erickson paid $4,737.08 to the Crime Victim Compensation Program.

In April 2015, Erickson moved to amend the final judgment in his criminal case to remove the 10% administrative fee and find Erickson’s restitution obligations were satisfied. The state responded that the court lacked authority to amend a criminal judgment, and that the statutory requirement for adjusting or waiving a restitution order had not been met.

The district court held a hearing in July 2015 and invited Johnson to be heard. The court ordered Erickson to pay the 10% fee and indicated it would entertain a renewed motion to address the civil settlement after the administrative fee was paid. Erickson paid the fee. Erickson eventually moved to amend the judgment, but did not address the requirements of § 46-18-246.

Procedural Posture & Holding: The district court held a second hearing in July 2016, after which it ordered that “a general release from civil liability does not release Erickson from the conditions imposed in his criminal sentence, even where the victim may be precluded from pursuing further payment from Erickson,” reasoning that “Johnson’s agreement to accept less than the full restitution amount ordered by the Court as satisfaction for Erickson’s civil liability does not, by itself, satisfy the conditions [of] a criminal sentence.” Erickson appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms the denial of Erickson’s motion to modify his criminal judgment, reverses the order denying all relief under § 46-18-246, and remands for Erickson to make another request on a proper record.

Reasoning: “Once a valid sentence has been pronounced, the court imposing that sentence has no jurisdiction to modify it, except as provided by statute.” ¶ 15 (quoting State v. Fertterer). However, the legislature has authorized a sentencing court to adjust or waive unpaid restitution in certain circumstances. M.C.A. § 46-18-246. The court may adjust or waive restitution if: (1) the circumstances upon which the court based the imposition of restitution no longer exist; (2) the amount of the victim’s pecuniary loss no longer exists; (3) the method or time of payment no longer exists; or (4) it otherwise would be unjust to require payment as imposed.

Erickson did not specifically seek relief under this statute, and therefore did not make or preserve a factual record supporting such relief. The Court cannot make this determination on appeal, especially on an inadequate record.