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November 21, 2013

Hearsay evidence permissible to establish restitution award

In People v. Matzke, the Court of Appeals affirmed that a trial court may rely on hearsay evidence to establish a restitution award, during the sentencing phase of a criminal matter. Defendant was convicted of larceny after taking a gas-oil separator from the victim’s property and subsequently damaged the equipment when returning it to the victim. At the restitution hearing, the trial court ordered $4,580 in restitution based on evidence that this amount reflected the cost to repair the stolen equipment. On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court erred in considering hearsay evidence at the restitution hearing. However, the Court held that the restitution hearing was conducted exclusively for the purpose of sentencing, and because MRE 1101(b)(3) states that the Michigan Rules of Evidence do not apply to sentencing proceedings, the trial court could properly consider hearsay evidence. Additionally, defendant contended that the trial court erred in the amount of restitution ordered. Again, the Court disagreed, holding that “a preponderance of evidence” presented at the hearing supported the trial court’s order of restitution. Accordingly, the Court upheld the trial court’s restitution order.

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