from the District Court of Ward County, North Central
Judicial District, the Honorable Gary H. Lee, Judge.
A. Pierson, Assistant State's Attorney, Ward County
State's Attorney's Office, Minot, ND, for plaintiff
Baumann, Minot Public Defender Office, Minot, ND, for
defendant and appellant.
W. VandeWalle, C.J., Dale V. Sandstrom, Daniel J. Crothers,
Lisa Fair McEvers, Carol Ronning Kapsner.
[¶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
[¶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 ...