In Re Interest of Seth C.

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In Re Interest of Seth C.

Caselaw No.
307 Neb. 862 (2020)
Filed on
Friday, November 20, 2020

Summary:

Seth appeals the juvenile court’s order of restitution.  Supreme Court affirms.

Seth was in a physical altercation with another person after a road rage incident.  After both vehicles came to a stop Seth left his vehicle and punched the other driver 4-5 times.  At that point the other driver got out of his vehicle and a fight ensued.  A petition was filed in juvenile court alleging Seth had committed conduct that would constitute assault in the third degree (on the other driver). Seth denied the allegation in the petition.  The petition was later amended by inter interlineation to allege that Seth disturbed the peace and quiet of another person (the other driver). Seth entered an admission to the amended petition. On October 16, the juvenile court entered an order of adjudication finding Seth to be a juvenile as defined by § 43-247(1), continuing his disposition to a later date and ordering the preparation of a predisposition investigation report.

As a term of probation, the juvenile court ordered Seth to pay $500 in restitution for the victim's (the other driver) medical expenses. Seth objected at trial arguing that the Nebraska Juvenile Code does not authorize a juvenile court to order restitution for medical expenses incurred by a victim. The juvenile court stated that the “very nature of the statute gives the court broad discretion as to what those terms may be.” The court opined that the inclusion of the provisions of restitution and community service programs in the statute provides mere examples of what the court may order, not the exclusive list of what the court is authorized to order.  Seth also objected to the amount of money the juvenile court ordered him to pay ($500) stating he didn’t have the ability to pay the amount and that the evidence presented wasn’t sufficient to prove what medical bills were attributed to the incident at hand.

The Supreme Court stated in its opinion that the foremost purpose and objective of the Nebraska Juvenile Code is to promote and protect the juvenile’s best interests.  In re Interest of Veronica H., 272 Neb. 370, 721 N.W.2d 651 (2006).  Additionally, the Nebraska Juvenile Code must be liberally construed to serve the best interests of juveniles who fall within it.  See id. See, also, Neb. Rev. Stat. § 43-2,128 (Reissue 2016).  The Supreme Court also conducted a brief tutorial on the reading and interpretation of statutes in the opinion.

The Supreme Court affirmed the order of restitution for medical expenses, holding that § 43-286(1)(a) authorized the juvenile court to order Seth to pay restitution for medical expenses. And that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support a finding that Seth caused the victim's injuries, the amount of restitution ordered, and that the order of restitution was in the interest of Seth's reformation and rehabilitation.