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State v. Lewis

Superior Court of Delaware

April 18, 2017

STATE OF DELAWARE
v.
TANIKA LEWIS, Defendant.

          Submitted: February 24, 2017

         Upon Motions for Modification of Sentence Regarding Restitution State's Motion - DENIED Defendant's Motion - GRANTED in part.

          HONORABLE ANDREA L. ROCANELLI JUDGE.

         The Court hereby finds that the procedural posture of this matter is as follows:

         1. On January 13, 2016, Defendant Tanika Lewis ("Defendant") entered a plea of Guilty to Burglary Third Degree, Forgery Second Degree, and Theft Under $1500, and agreed to pay restitution to certain identified victims of her criminal conduct.

         2. By Order dated March 9, 2016, effective March 3, 2016, Defendant was sentenced ("Sentencing Order"): (i) as to Burglary Third Degree, restitution of $47.00 and 3 years at Level V as an Habitual Offender pursuant to 11 Del. C. § 4214(a); (ii) as to Forgery Second Degree, restitution of $4, 987.15 and 2 years at Level V, suspended for 2 years at Level IV/Crest, suspended after successful completion for balance of time to be served at Level III/GPS; and (iii) as to Theft Under $1500, restitution of $4, 686.00 ("Theft Restitution") and 12 months at Level V, suspended for 12 months Level III/GPS.

         3. The Court's order of Theft Restitution is currently at issue. The order of Theft Restitution arises from Defendant's Theft of a purse belonging to a member of the public ("Theft Victim") while Theft Victim was on the premises of Delaware College Preparatory Academy.

         4. By Letter dated January 13, 2017, Philadelphia Insurance Company ("PIC") contacted the Court directly through Maryland counsel. PIC claims to have insured Delaware College Preparatory Academy and to have paid $4, 196.33 to Theft Victim in its capacity as an insurer. PIC requests that the Court modify the Sentencing Order such that a portion of Theft Restitution will be made payable to PIC rather than to Theft Victim.[1]

         5. The Court forwarded PIC's letter to the State and Defendant. Upon consideration of PIC's letter, the State and Defendant both made requests for relief. The State requests modification of the Sentencing Order as to Theft Restitution such that the amount that PIC paid to Theft Victim is made payable to PIC instead. Defendant requests modification of the Sentencing Order to vacate Theft Restitution to Theft Victim.

         NOW, THEREFORE, upon consideration of the pending requests by the State and Defendant for modification of the Sentencing Order as to Theft Restitution; the facts, arguments, and legal authorities set forth by the parties; statutory and decisional law; and the entire record in this case, the Court hereby finds as follows:

         1. PIC's request is not properly before the Court. PIC did not file a motion to intervene in this criminal action and did not otherwise properly request relief through Delaware counsel. Instead, counsel who is not admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware sent an informal letter directly to this judicial officer without sending copies to the Prothonotary or notifying the State or Defendant of the request. The Court will not consider a request for relief that is made by a party who is not properly before the Court.

         2. Theft Victim was already paid for her loss over and above the deductible, and it would be inappropriate for Theft Victim to receive double compensation.[2] Accordingly, the Court agrees with both the State and Defendant that the Sentencing Order as to Theft Restitution to Theft Victim must be modified.

         3. The Delaware Supreme Court has closely scrutinized restitution awards by the Superior Court in criminal cases for compliance with due process. The Court notes that Theft Restitution to Theft Victim was properly awarded at the time of Defendant's sentencing, when this Court had jurisdiction to impose such an order and an award of restitution was consistent with due process.[3] Now, Defendant's counsel vehemently objects to the transfer of Theft Restitution to PIC by noting, among other things, that neither PIC nor its claimed insured Delaware College Preparatory Academy is listed as a victim on the plea agreement documents.[4] Defendant's counsel further objects on the grounds that PIC's request is untimely and was not presented at the time of sentencing.

         4. Defendant is correct that PIC is not Defendant's insurance company or an identified victim in Defendant's plea agreement.[5] Rather, PIC insured Delaware College Preparatory Academy and paid Theft Victim's claim of $4, 196.33. Even under circumstances where an insurance company is an identified victim of criminal conduct, statutory law assigns low priority status for reimbursement of restitution to the insurance company.[6] The Delaware Supreme Court has noted that the "restitution payor's own carrier is not a proper beneficiary of restitution payments." [7] According to the Supreme Court, insurance carriers ...


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