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In re Tyrell A.

Court of Appeals of Maryland

March 30, 2015

IN RE: TYRELL A

Argued February 9, 2015.

Page 469

Circuit Court for Montgomery County. Case No. 06-J-12-268.

For PETITIONER: Mark Colvin, Assistant Public Defender (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender of Baltimore, MD) on brief.

For RESPONDENT: Benjamin A. Harris, Assistant Attorney General (Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General of Maryland, of Baltimore, MD) on brief; Brief of Amicus Curiae Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center, Inc.; Victor Stone, Esquire, Russell P. Butler, Esquire, Counsel for Amicus Curiae, Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center, Inc., Upper Marlboro, MD.

Barbera, C.J., Harrell, Battaglia, Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Watts, JJ.

OPINION

Harrell, J.

Page 470

[442 Md. 358] " The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club." -- Fight Club (Fox 2000 Pictures, Regency Enterprises, Linson Films 1999).

In this case, at the very least, the first rule of Fight Club was violated apparently. Two high school students, both of whom were minors at the time of the underlying pugilistic display, engaged in a fist-fight. Their verbal argument that commenced in front of their school came to blows behind the school. The pre-fight publicity attracted an audience, causing a disturbance in scholastic activities. In the course of the fight, one of the combatants, Dylan P., suffered a broken nose and damaged sinuses.

In a subsequent juvenile proceeding, Tyrell A. (" Petitioner" ), the nominal victor of the main event, was found by the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, sitting as a juvenile court, to have been involved in the common law offense of affray.[1] For purposes of determining Petitioner's involvement, the Court found Dylan P. to be also a participant in the affray; however, he was not charged with any delinquent act arising from the fight.

The Circuit Court placed Petitioner on probation. One of the conditions of his probation required him to pay restitution for a portion of the medical expenses incurred by Dylan P. for treatment of his injuries suffered during the affray. We consider here whether the Circuit Court had discretion, under Maryland Code (2001, 2008 Repl. Vol.), Criminal Procedure Article, § § 11-603, 11-202 (" CP" ), to order restitution, under [442 Md. 359] the circumstances, to a voluntary co-participant in the delinquent

Page 471

act of affray for which Petitioner was found involved.

Factual and Procedural Background

On 11 April 2012, the State's Attorney for Montgomery County filed a juvenile petition alleging that Petitioner was a delinquent child who committed second degree assault and affray. A merits hearing was held on 14 June 2012. Petitioner and the State reached a plea agreement in which Petitioner admitted involvement in the alleged affray and the State withdrew the charge of second degree assault.

The Circuit Court for Montgomery County, sitting as a juvenile court, informed Petitioner of his trial rights and, satisfied that he understood the impact of his admission and was admitting freely and voluntarily to the affray, accepted Petitioner's admission. The State then offered the following predicate facts in support of Petitioner's admission:

On January 13, 2012, at Blake High School [Tyrell A.] and [Dylan P.] were arguing in front of the high school. [Tyrell A.] challenged [Dylan P.] to a fight out behind the school wherein [Tyrell A.] punched [Dylan P.] in the face two times, breaking his nose and damaging his sinuses. This fight caused a disturbance of school operations and its students and all events occurred in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Petitioner accepted the State's proffer, adding only that " [Tyrell A.] didn't invite [Dylan P.] to the rear of the school. [Dylan P.] did go to the rear of the school and that's where the affray occurred." On this information, the juvenile judge determined that Petitioner committed the offense of affray. After inquiring as to the cause of the argument that led to the two-punch knockout--money for a bus fare, according to Petitioner--the judge placed Petitioner on probation.[2]

[442 Md. 360] The terms of Petitioner's probation required that he observe a curfew and other rules set by his parents, continue with outpatient drug treatment, and participate in an education assessment and any directed family-based services. The State also sought restitution to be paid to Dylan P. for his medical expenses resulting from his injuries sustained in the affray. A restitution hearing was scheduled for a later date so that Petitioner's counsel could prepare Petitioner's defense.

On 19 July 2012, the juvenile court held a restitution hearing. Petitioner, through his attorney, argued that restitution was not appropriate because Dylan P. was not the victim of the affray, but rather a co-participant who was involved equally in the delinquent conduct. The State, pointing to the language of the restitution statutes, argued that the statutory text did not prohibit restitution to co-participants of criminal or delinquent conduct and, therefore, the Court had discretion to order restitution.

The Circuit Court amended Petitioner's probation to require Petitioner's payment of $299.76 to Dylan P. as partial restitution for Dylan P.'s medical expenses. This sum was half of the amount sought by the State. According to the judge, because both Petitioner and Dylan P. were participants in the affray, and therefore Dylan P. was as responsible for his injuries as Petitioner, it was not appropriate for Petitioner to pay the full amount of the medical expenses. Petitioner appealed to the Court of Special Appeals the restitution requirement of his probation.

Page 472

In an unreported opinion, a divided panel of the intermediate appellate court affirmed the Circuit Court's order of restitution. The majority relied on the text of CP § 11-601(j) defining " victim" for purposes of CP § 11-603. Judge Irma Raker (specially assigned) authored a dissenting opinion, focusing rather on the ordinary usage of " victim" within the criminal law and concluding that Dylan P. was not a victim within the ambit of the statute.

Petitioner sought our review of the restitution requirement as a condition of his probation. We issued a writ of certiorari, [442 Md. 361] In re: Tyrell A., 439 Md. 327, 96 A.3d 143 (2014), to consider the following questions:

1) Does the term " victim," defined in Md. Code (2001, 2008 Repl. Vol) Criminal Procedure Art., § § 11-601(j) and 11-603(a), as " a person who suffers death, personal injury, or property damage or loss as a direct result of a crime or delinquent act," include an individual who sustains personal injury while voluntarily participating in the crime or delinquent act?
2) Is an individual who sustains personal injury while voluntarily participating in the common law offense of affray a " victim" within the meaning of § § 11-601(j) and 11-603(a)?
3) Should the definition of " victim" in § § 11-601(j) and 11-603(a) be given a different interpretation in juvenile delinquency cases than in criminal cases?[3]
4) Did the trial court lack authority to order Petitioner to make restitution in this case?

Discussion

A trial court has discretion to order restitution when, " as a direct result of the crime or delinquent act, property of the victim was stolen, damaged, destroyed, converted, or unlawfully obtained, or its value substantially decreased . . . ." CP § 11-603(a)(1). Restitution may be ordered for medical and funeral expenses, direct out-of-pocket losses, loss of earnings, and certain government expenses. See CP § 11-603(a). " Victim" is defined as: " (1) a person who suffered death, personal injury, or property damage or loss as a direct result of a crime or delinquent act; or, (2) if the person is deceased, the personal representative the estate of the person." CP § 11-601(j). The present case turns on whether a person who was [442 Md. 362] a voluntary co-participant in the crime or delinquent act may be deemed a " victim" under CP § 11-601(j).

When interpreting statutes, we seek to ascertain and implement the intent of the Legislature. Williams v. Peninsula Reg'l Med. Ctr., 440 Md. 573, 580, 103 A.3d 658, 663 (2014); Johnson v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore City, 387 Md. 1, 11, 874 A.2d 439, 445 (2005); Witte v. Azarian, 369 Md. 518, 525, 801 A.2d 160, 165 (2002). We look first to the text of the statute. " If the language of the statute is unambiguous and clearly consistent with the statute's apparent purpose, our inquiry as to legislative intent ends ordinarily and we apply the statute as written, without resort to other rules of construction." Lockshin v. Semsker, 412 Md. 257, 275, 987 A.2d 18, 28-29 (2010). If ambiguity is found in the text, or if the plain meaning of the text does not comport with the apparent purpose of the statute, we consult other indicia of legislative intent, including the relevant statute's legislative

Page 473

history, the context of the statute within the broader legislative scheme, and the rationality of competing constructions.[4] Witte, 369 Md. at 525-26, 801 A.2d at 165.

A. Text of CP § 11-601(j)

The text of CP § 11-601(j) does not eliminate expressly co-participants in criminal or delinquent acts from being considered [442 Md. 363] a " victim" for purposes of restitution. A voluntary participant in a criminal or delinquent activity may be harmed as a direct result of that activity. Indeed, some actions are criminalized, at least in part, for the very reason that a participant may be harmed. See, e.g., Maryland Code (2002, 2012 Repl. Vol.), Criminal Law Article, § § 3-102 (prohibiting assisting a person to commit or attempt suicide), 5-601 (prohibiting possession, attempts at acquisition, or administration of a controlled dangerous substance), 10-108 (prohibiting possession and use of a tobacco product by a minor). As the Supreme Court of the United States noted in Bond v. United States, 134 S.Ct. 2077, 189 L.Ed.2d 1 ...


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