COA vacates criminal judgment that charged defendant for general costs of investigation

In People v. Gaines, Nos. 310367–69, defendant appealed his convictions in three consolidated cases, which arose out of his interactions with three younger girls who were between 13 and 15 years old and attended his high school. The Court of Appeals affirmed defendant’s accosting and criminal sexual conduct convictions, but vacated the portion of the judgment of sentence ordering defendant to pay for the costs of this criminal investigation. The Court concluded that these general costs, including charges for law enforcement salaries and equipment, would occur regardless whether a particular defendant committed the crime. Accordingly, the defendant’s judgment was vacated and the case was remanded to the trial court for amendment of the restitution award. In affirming the remaining provisions of defendant’s sentences, the Court rejected a multitude of arguments, including his claims that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting other charged and uncharged acts into evidence under MCL 768.27a and by consolidating the cases through joinder.

In Saginaw Circuit Court Case No. 10-035017-FH, defendant was convicted of accosting, enticing, or soliciting a child (CP) for immoral purposes, MCL 750.145a, and sentenced to 13 months to 4 years in prison. In Case No. 10-035018-FH, defendant was convicted of third-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC-III) against AW, MCL 750.520d(1)(a) (sexual intercourse with a 13 to 15-year-old victim), and sentenced to 4 to 15 years in prison. In Case No. 10-035019-FH, defendant was convicted of three counts of CSC-III against MM (digital penetration with a 13 to 15-year-old victim) and accosting a child (MM) for immoral purposes, and sentenced to 4 to 15 years in prison for the CSC-III convictions and 13 months to 4 years for the accosting conviction.

The defendant raised a number of issues on appeal, most of which were quickly disposed of by the appellate court. The important take-away for criminal practitioners involves the question of whether a defendant may be charged for general costs of the investigation. Ultimately, the Court of Appeals agreed the trial court erred by ordering defendant to pay for the general cost of investigating and prosecuting criminal activity. The payment of costs of the investigation a crime, such as salaries and equipment, would occur regardless whether a particular defendant committed the crime and therefore could not be recouped through restitution. People v Newton, 257 Mich App 61, 69-70; 668 NW2d 504 (2003). Because the trial court erred in ordering defendant to pay for officer investigation (24 hours for $864), a forensic analyst (102 hours for $3,672), and disks ($6.64), the Court of Appeals vacated that portion of the judgment of sentence.