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In re G.R.

Court of Appeals of Maryland

April 1, 2019

IN RE: G.R.

          Argued: November 30, 2018

          Circuit Court for Prince George's County Case No. JA-17-0265

          Barbera, C.J., Greene, McDonald, Watts, Hotten, Getty, Adkins, Sally (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned) JJ.

          OPINION

          GETTY, J.

         "A key that opens many locks is worth buying. A lock that can be opened with many keys isn't."

         -Nabil N. Jamal, Ph.D. [1]

         On numerous occasions, the Supreme Court has recognized "the overriding respect for the sanctity of the home that has been embedded in our traditions since the origins of the Republic." Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 601 (1980); Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 610 (1999). While the Supreme Court has recognized that this respect for the sanctity of the home is most often implicated within the context of the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement, in the present appeal we are asked to determine a subsidiary question. Particularly, we must determine, pursuant to the "direct result" requirement of Criminal Procedure Article ("CP") § 11-603(a), whether an award of restitution is proper for rekeying household locks where the corresponding keys were stolen during an armed robbery. For the following reasons, we answer this question in the affirmative and therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals.

         BACKGROUND

         In this juvenile matter, a set of stolen keys to three different households constitute the central issue of restitution. Two juveniles, J.S. and J.Y., were walking home from school in the Largo area of Prince George's County on May 1, 2017. During their commute, the two were approached by a group of juveniles, including respondent G.R. An altercation ensued and the assailants robbed J.S. and J.Y. at knifepoint. The assailants took from J.S. his backpack and a Samsung cell phone. Within his backpack was a key ring holding the three housekeys, two pairs of Jordan sneakers, and a binder. The keys corresponded to the locks of the exterior doors of three homes, the homes of J.S.'s mother, father, and sister.

         During the course of the robbery, J.Y. attempted to intervene and assist his friend. As a result, G.R. approached J.Y. armed with a boxcutter and demanded several items from him, ultimately taking his iPhone and wallet. Thereafter, police responded to the incident and took statements from J.S. and J.Y. As the responding officers transported J.S. and J.Y. in a police cruiser to the police station to take further statements, J.S. observed three of the alleged assailants walking down the street. The officers pulled over the police cruiser, exited the vehicle, and attempted to apprehend G.R. and the other assailants. When the officers beckoned the group of juveniles, the alleged assailants took flight. Although officers were unable to catch the assailants, during the pursuit G.R. dropped a backpack. Police later determined that the backpack belonged to J.S. At the time the backpack was recovered, the keys were missing but it contained J.Y.'s iPhone and the box cutter used by G.R. in the robbery. Subsequently, police apprehended G.R.[2] At the time of his apprehension, he possessed several items stolen from J.S. These items included the set of housekeys as well as the second pair of Jordan sneakers stolen from J.S. G.R. was then taken, processed, and detained at Cheltenham Youth Facility ("Cheltenham"), a juvenile detention center located in Prince George's County.

         At this point, the arresting officers apparently failed to properly inventory the keys stolen from J.S. According to the record, the keys were impounded by police and mistakenly held with G.R.'s personal property at Cheltenham. As a result, neither J.S. nor his family members, whose homes the keys corresponded to, were aware that the keys were in police custody. Consequently, J.S.'s family members decided to have the locks of their homes rekeyed, because of the security risk associated with the stolen keys which, unbeknownst to J.S. or his family, were being held at Cheltenham at the time.

         On May 18, 2017, before the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, sitting as a juvenile court, G.R. was charged with robbery, second-degree assault, and openly carrying a dangerous weapon. In response, he pleaded involved to all the charges.[3] On June 16, 2017, the juvenile court held a restitution hearing. The State sought $120 in restitution for J.S. as follows: (1) $65 dollars to rekey the locks of the three homes of which the keys were stolen; (2) $50 for replacing the cellphone; and (3) $5 for the binder that was never recovered. During the restitution hearing, defense counsel brought to the State's, the court's, and J.S. 's attention that the keys had been recovered by police and mistakenly held with G.R. 's personal belongings at Cheltenham. Prior to this point, including the period in which the locks were rekeyed, G.R., his family, the court, and the State's Attorney were entirely unaware that the keys had been recovered.

         At the restitution hearing, counsel for G.R. argued to deny restitution for rekeying the locks under Williams v. State, 385 Md. 50 (2005) contending that there was insufficient direct causation to justify the $65 restitution. In contrast, the State argued that pursuant to Goff v. State, 387 Md. 327 (2005), the cost of rekeying the locks was a direct result of the robbery and assault. The circuit court agreed with the State and ultimately found G.R. liable for the entire $120 in restitution.

         Subsequently, on August 15, 2017, G.R. filed a notice of appeal of the juvenile court's decision and appealed to the Court of Special Appeals. In an unreported opinion filed on May 17, 2018, the intermediate appellate court affirmed in part and vacated in part the juvenile court's order, determining that the court erred in ordering $65 in restitution to rekey the three locks. The court determined that the costs of rekeying the locks was not a direct result of the underlying robbery and concluded that "while there is undeniably a causal link between the theft of the keys and J.S.'s decision to replace his locks, that nexus does not partake of the directness required by the statute." In re G.R., No. 853, Sept. Term, 2017, 2018 WL 2263819 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. May 17, 2018) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Subsequently, the State petitioned this Court for writ of certiorari, which we granted on August 10, 2018. In re G.R., 460 Md. 492 (2018).[4]

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Generally, an appellate court reviews a circuit court's order of restitution for abuse of discretion. In re Cody H., 452 Md. 169, 181 (2017) (citing Silver v. State, 420 Md. 415, 427 (2011)). However, where a circuit court's order involves "an interpretation and application of Maryland statutory and case law[, ]" we review its decision de novo. Goff v. State, 387 Md. 327, 337-38 (2005) (quoting Nesbit v. Government Employees Ins. Co., 382 Md. 65, 72 (2004)). See also In re Cody H., 452 Md. at 181. As the present case centers around an interpretation of the "direct result" language of CP § 11-603, we review the circuit court's restitution order under the de novo standard.

         DISCUSSION

         The statutory framework providing a court's authority to order restitution is Subtitle 6, Title 11 of the Criminal Procedure Article. Particularly, CP § 11-603 identifies appropriate grounds for restitution and, in pertinent part, provides the following:

(a) A court may enter a judgment of restitution that orders a defendant or child respondent to make restitution in addition to any other penalty for the commission of a crime or delinquent act, if:
(1)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;
(2)as a direct result of the crime or delinquent act, the victim suffered:
(i) actual medical, dental, hospital, counseling, funeral, or burial expenses or losses;
(ii) direct out-of-pocket ...

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