Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Clayton

Supreme Court of North Dakota

June 30, 2016

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
Benjamin Blake Clayton, Defendant and Appellant

          Appeal from the District Court of Ward County, North Central Judicial District, the Honorable Gary H. Lee, Judge.

         Caitlyn A. Pierson, Assistant State's Attorney, Ward County State's Attorney's Office, Minot, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

         Eric P. Baumann, Minot Public Defender Office, Minot, ND, for defendant and appellant.

         Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J., Dale V. Sandstrom, Daniel J. Crothers, Lisa Fair McEvers, Carol Ronning Kapsner.


         VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

          [¶1] Benjamin Clayton appealed from an amended judgment ordering him to pay $24,897.16 in restitution. We affirm.


          [¶2] According to a police affidavit, officers responding to a reported disturbance observed one man holding another man in a headlock and repeatedly punching his face. The men were identified as Clayton and his father, respectively. As a result of the fight, both men suffered facial injuries. Clayton's father also suffered a broken ankle, which required corrective medical care. After charging Clayton with aggravated assault, the State amended its charge to simple assault and Clayton pled guilty. After the district court entered an according criminal judgment, the State moved to amend the judgment to include restitution of $24,897.16 for medical expenses associated with the ankle injury.

          [¶3] Clayton objected to this amount and requested a restitution hearing. At the hearing, a hospital administrator testified the documents submitted by the State regarding the medical expenses were accurate. Clayton testified he and his father engaged in a verbal altercation that escalated into a physical altercation. According to Clayton, his father threw the first punch, after which Clayton's father tripped and fell, resulting in the two going to the ground. Once on the ground, Clayton testified he placed his father in a headlock and he assaulted his father. Clayton testified he believed his father's fall, not his own actions, caused the ankle injury. A minor who witnessed the incident also testified Clayton's father threw the first punch and fell to the ground.

          [¶4] After the hearing, the district court found: " Clayton and his [father] were arguing. The argument grew heated, and Clayton apparently threw the first punch. The two ended up rolling on the ground, and Clayton's father suffered the injury to his ankle." In its order, the court rejected Clayton's assertion the ankle injury occurred prior to his assault because parsing when or how the injury occurred relative to the assault was infeasible. The court concluded the State did not have to prove the ankle injury arose from a specific violent act on the part of Clayton; rather, it sufficed the State established an assault and an injury occurred. According to the court, Clayton did not establish something other than his actions caused the ankle injury. Accordingly, the court granted the State's motion and amended the criminal judgment to include a restitution award of $24,897.16.


          [¶5] Clayton argues the district court acted outside its statutory authority by ordering restitution for the ankle injury. Unless inappropriate under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-32-08(1)(a)-(c), a " court, when sentencing a person adjudged guilty of criminal activities that have resulted in pecuniary damages, in addition to any other sentence the court may impose, shall order that the defendant make restitution to the victim or other recipient as determined by the court . . . ." N.D.C.C. § 12.1-32-08(1). Restitution is limited to those damages " directly related to the criminal offense and expenses actually incurred as a direct result of the defendant's criminal action." N.D.C.C. § 12.1-32-08(1)(a). This direct relationship requires " an immediate and intimate causal connection between the criminal conduct and the damages or expenses for which restitution is ordered." State v. Pippin, 496 N.W.2d 50, 53 (N.D. 1993); but see State v. Steinolfson, 483 N.W.2d 182, 184 (N.D. 1992) (allowing restitution for damages not directly related to the defendant's criminal conduct when specifically provided for within the defendant's plea agreement). " [T]he State has the burden in a restitution hearing to prove the amount of restitution by a preponderance of the evidence." State v. Nelson, 2015 ND 301, ¶ 6, 872 N.W.2d 613 (quoting State v. Gill, 2004 ND 137, ¶ 7, 681 N.W.2d 832).

          [¶6] " This Court's review of a restitution order is limited to whether the district court acted within the limits set by statute, which is similar to an abuse of discretion standard." Id. (quoting State v. Tupa, 2005 ND 25, ¶ 3, 691 N.W.2d 579. " A district court abuses its discretion if it acts in an arbitrary, unreasonable, or unconscionable manner, if its decision is not the product of a rational mental process leading to a reasoned determination, or if it misinterprets or misapplies the law." Id. (quoting Tupa, at ¶ 3).

          [¶7] On appeal, Clayton primarily argues the State did not meet its burden of proof regarding his assault directly resulting in the ankle injury. Although not explicitly stating so, the district court implicitly found Clayton's assault directly resulted in the ankle injury. With his argument, Clayton challenges the sufficiency of evidence supporting the court's factual finding. Whether an injury directly resulted from a defendant's criminal conduct is a question of fact. Cf. Miller v. Diamond Res., Inc.,2005 ND 150, ¶ 10, 703 N.W.2d 316 (noting questions of causation are questions of fact). Under N.D.R.Civ.P. 52(a)(6), we may not set aside a factual finding unless the finding is clearly erroneous. " [A] finding of fact is clearly erroneous only if it is induced by an erroneous view of the law or, although there is some evidence to support it, on ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.