Criminal mischief conviction stands even if defendant’s insurer covered the property damage loss: CRAIN V. COM. (SC 4/24/2008)

CRAIN V. COM.
CRIMINAL:  Criminal Mischief & Pecuniary Loss
2007-SC-000120-MR.pdf
PUBLISHED: AFFIRJMING
OPINION BY NOBLE
JEFFERSON
DATE RENDERED: 4/24/2008 -76

SC affirmed Crain’s convictions and 20 year sentence for first-degree criminal mischief, first-degree fleeing or evading, and PFO 1st. Crain was not entitled to directed verdict on first degree criminal mischief simply because his insurance paid the damage. The measure of loss in determining criminal liability should be the fair market value of the loss. In Crain’s case, the fair market value of the loss he caused was the $6274 paid by his insurance company for repairs. It is not relevant that the insurance company paid for the repairs; it matters only that Crain was the cause of that amount of damage. If Crain were entitled to a directed verdict on these two counts simply because his insurance company compensated his victim, then he could also avoid criminal liability for first- and second-degree criminal mischief simply by paying the bills for the damage he causes. But allowing people to simply pay their way out of criminal liability surely cannot be the right outcome. Such logic would effectively neuter the criminal mischief statutes.

Crain was not entitled to an instruction on the lesser included offense of 2nd degree fleeing or evading. It is clear that Crain caused a substantial risk of injury to a person. He drove his car into three other vehicles while driving erratically. The jury also found him guilty of reckless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol. His collision with Bruce’s truck was significant enough to cause over $6,000 of damage. No reasonable juror could acquit Crain on the charge of creating a substantial risk of injury to a person while fleeing or evading the police and yet find him guilty of fleeing or evading the police without causing such risk or actual injury.

Digested by Scott Byrd, Olgin and Byrd Attorneys

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