In this case, we consider whether Minn. Stat. § 611A.045, subd. 1 (2014), provides an exclusive list of factors for a district court to consider when determining the amount of restitution to award to a crime victim. Concluding that the language of section 611A.045, subdivision 1, does not prohibit consideration of the victim's fault, the district court awarded the victim only half of the employment-related expenses that he sought because the victim was the initial aggressor. The court of appeals reversed, and we granted review. Because section 611A.045, subdivision 1, provides an exclusive list of factors for determining the amount of restitution to award, we affirm the decision of the court of appeals.
Brandon Wayne Riggs was at a gas station in Minnesota City when he was approached by the victim, D.S. The victim confronted Riggs about the quality of the marijuana that Riggs had sold him several months earlier. Riggs left the gas station, but the victim followed Riggs and then attacked him. Riggs drew a knife and stabbed the victim twice, inflicting serious injuries.
The State charged Riggs with second-degree assault, Minn.Stat. § 609.222, subd. 1 (2014), and terroristic threats, Minn.Stat. § 609.713, subd. 1 (2014). Pursuant to a plea agreement, Riggs pleaded guilty to the terroristic threats offense, and the State dismissed the assault charge. The victim filed a request for restitution, including the cost of hiring an employee to help the victim perform his job while his injuries healed.
At the restitution hearing, the State sought $2,973.07 for the victim's employment-related expenses.
The State appealed, and the court of appeals reversed. State v. Riggs, 845 N.W.2d 236, 239 (Minn.App.2014). Citing Northland Country Club v. Comm'r of Taxation, 308 Minn. 265, 271, 241 N.W.2d 806, 809 (1976), the court of appeals explained that the omission of a phrase from a statute is presumed to be deliberate. Riggs, 845 N.W.2d at 238-39. The court of appeals reasoned that section 611A.045, subdivision 1, directs the district court to consider the victim's economic loss from the offense and the defendant's income, resources, and obligations. Id. at 238. Because the statute does not identify any other factors or provide that other factors may be considered, the court of appeals reversed the district court's restitution award and remanded with instructions to the district court to consider only the factors identified in section 611A.045, subdivision 1, when determining the amount of restitution. Id. at 239. We granted Riggs's petition for review.
Riggs argues that the court of appeals erred in its interpretation of section 611A.045, subdivision 1, because the court of appeals construed the phrase "shall consider" as "shall only consider." In doing so, Riggs argues, the court of appeals added a word that was omitted by the Legislature.
Statutory interpretation presents a question of law, which we review de novo. State v. Jones, 848 N.W.2d 528, 535 (Minn.2014). Our objective in statutory interpretation is to "effectuate the intent of the legislature." Id.; Minn.Stat. § 645.16 (2014). If the Legislature's intent is discernible from the statute's plain and unambiguous language, the letter of the law shall not be disregarded under the pretext of pursuing its spirit. Citizens State Bank Norwood Young Am. v. Brown, 849 N.W.2d 55, 60 (Minn.2014). A statute is ambiguous when its language is subject to more than one reasonable interpretation. State v. Mauer, 741 N.W.2d 107, 111 (Minn.2007). The first question in our statutory interpretation analysis, therefore, is whether the statute's language is ambiguous. State v. Peck, 773 N.W.2d 768, 772 (Minn.2009).
When determining whether the language of a statute is ambiguous, we consider the canons of interpretation listed in Minn. Stat. § 645.08 (2014).
Van Asperen v. Darling Olds, Inc., 254 Minn. 62, 73-74, 93 N.W.2d 690, 698 (1958). Thus, "[i]f the Legislature's intent is clear from the statute's plain and unambiguous language, then we interpret the statute according to its plain meaning without resorting to the canons of statutory construction."
With the canons of interpretation as our guide, we consider the statutory language in question. Section 611A.045, subdivision 1, provides in pertinent part:
Minn.Stat. § 611A.045, subd. 1(a). In our past consideration of section 611A.045, subdivision 1, we have focused primarily on the issues of the economic loss sustained by the victim and the ability of the defendant to pay. See State v. Johnson, 851 N.W.2d 60, 64-65 (Minn.2014) (concluding that the State did not meet its burden of establishing the amount of damage the defendant caused to the victim's car); State v. Lindsey, 632 N.W.2d 652, 663-64 (Minn.2001) (concluding that the restitution amount imposed by the district court was not an abuse of discretion in light of the defendant's ability to pay); State v. Tenerelli, 598 N.W.2d 668, 672 (Minn.1999) (concluding that the district court was within its discretion by ordering restitution for the cost of a healing ceremony); State v. Maidi, 537 N.W.2d 280, 285-86 (Minn.1995) (concluding that district courts have flexibility to structure restitution orders that consider a defendant's ability to pay). We also have considered whether a district court may impose
Riggs argues that the plain meaning of the statute allows the district court to consider the victim's fault for two reasons. First, the statute lacks language that expressly limits consideration to the two factors provided. And second, the phrase "as a result of the offense" allows the district court to consider the circumstances surrounding the offense, such as the victim's role in the offense.
The plain and ordinary meaning of section 611A.045, subdivision 1, leads to the conclusion that, when ordering restitution, the district court erred by considering factors other than those set forth in the statute. The Legislature expressly provided two factors for the district court to consider, using the language "shall consider the following factors." Minn.Stat. § 611A.045, subd. 1. The statute does not include language that would support Riggs's argument, such as "the district court shall consider at least the following factors," "among the factors that the district court shall consider are," or any other combination of words that would give the district court discretion to consider additional factors. Moreover, by using a definite article in the phrase, "the following factors," id. (emphasis added), the statute limits the district court to consideration of the express factors, State v. Hohenwald, 815 N.W.2d 823, 830 (Minn.2012).
We held in Hohenwald that "[t]he definite article `the' is a word of limitation that indicates a reference to a specific object." 815 N.W.2d at 830. Therefore, the factors expressly included in the subdivision are the "specific objects" to which the definite article "the" refers. Use of the term "the" in section 611A.045, subdivision 1, precludes the consideration of factors not expressly included in this subdivision. Our interpretation here is consistent with our analysis in In re N.J.S., 753 N.W.2d 704 (Minn.2008). There, we concluded that the phrase "shall consider the following factors" in Minn.Stat. § 260B.125, subd. 4 (2014),
Additionally, several sections later in chapter 611A, the Legislature addressed the contributory misconduct of the victim — the same factor that Riggs seeks to add to section 611A.045, subdivision 1. See Minn.Stat. § 611A.54 (2014). Section 611A.54 offers instructions for determining the amount of reparations to which crime victims are entitled.
In sum, after considering the common and approved meaning of the words used in section 611A.045, subdivision 1, and the surrounding statutory provisions, we conclude that the Legislature's intent is discernible from the statute's plain and unambiguous language. The Legislature intended to provide an exclusive list of factors for determining the amount of restitution to award when it enacted section 611A.045, subdivision 1.
Riggs argues alternatively that, even if section 611A.045, subdivision 1, provides an exclusive list of factors for determining the amount of restitution to award, the victim's role as the initial aggressor was properly considered as part of the first factor in subdivision 1(a), which requires a district court to consider "the amount of economic loss sustained by the victim as a result of the offense." We disagree.
Riggs contends that the phrase "as a result of the offense" allows a district court to consider "the circumstances of the offense and the victim's role." However, Riggs's contention is inconsistent with the plain language of section 611A.045, subdivision 1. Black's Law Dictionary defines "offense" as "[a] violation of the law; a crime, often a minor one." Black's Law Dictionary 1250 (10th ed.2014). The verb "result" is defined as "[t]o happen as a consequence." The American Heritage
In light of our interpretation of section 611A.045, subdivision 1, according to the plain and ordinary meaning of its words, we conclude that the district court erred by considering factors beyond those expressed in this statutory provision when awarding restitution. Therefore, we affirm the decision of the court of appeals and remand to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
GILDEA, Chief Justice (dissenting).
The majority concludes that the district court erred in considering the victim's fault in awarding restitution. I agree with the majority that the plain language of Minn.Stat. § 611A.045, subd. 1 (2014), provides an exclusive list of factors the court is to apply when determining the amount of restitution, but I disagree with the result the majority reaches. In my view the statutory phrase "as a result of the offense" allows the court to consider whether the victim's conduct caused the loss at issue. Id., subd. 1(a)(1). And although I agree with the result in Justice Page's dissent, I do not join his dissent because it suggests that the court can award restitution only for losses caused by the specific crime of conviction (in this case, terroristic threats).
A "result," as the majority states, is "[s]omething that follows naturally from a particular action, operation, or course; a consequence or outcome." The American Heritage Dictionary 1497 (5th ed.2011). In this case, Riggs argued that the victim would not have suffered the loss at issue if the victim had not started the confrontation. In other words, Riggs argued that the loss was not just a consequence of his behavior but followed naturally from the victim's behavior. Such alternative causation arguments are part of the typical causation analysis. See Jack Frost, Inc. v. Engineered Bldg. Components Co., Inc., 304 N.W.2d 346, 352 (Minn.1981) (holding that a plaintiff who suffered an injury "as a result of its own negligence and that of [the defendant]" is entitled to damages reduced by the proportion of the plaintiff's own negligence (emphasis added)).
I would adhere to that traditional causation analysis in the context of the restitution statute. Under such an analysis, the restitution statute permits the district court to consider alternative causes of the loss in deciding how much, if any, restitution to award. I therefore would hold that the district court did not err in concluding that the victim's losses were not entirely a "result" of Riggs's offense.
In sum, the majority is correct that the district court must consider only the two factors listed in section 611A.045, subdivision 1. Here, the court considered only those factors and determined that a portion of the loss sustained was not "as a result of the offense," but as a result of the victim's actions. I would reverse the court of appeals and hold that the district court did not err.
For these reasons, I respectfully dissent.
ANDERSON, Justice (dissenting).
I join in the dissent of the Chief Justice.
PAGE, Justice (dissenting).
The court's conclusion that the "plain and unambiguous" language of Minn.Stat. § 611A.045, subd. 1 (2014), precludes the district court from considering the victim's role as aggressor in determining the restitution award ignores the fact that any restitution award in this case would be based on circumstances outside the offense of conviction, and thus outside the criteria listed in section 611A.045, subdivision 1. Thus, the court's conclusion is neither consistent with the "plain and unambiguous" language of the statute, nor with the just administration of the statute.
Minnesota Statutes § 611A.045, subd. 1(a), provides:
(Emphasis added.) Under Minn.Stat. § 611A.04, subd. 1(a) (2014), a victim may only receive restitution "as part of the disposition of a criminal charge ... against the offender if the offender is convicted." (Emphasis added.) Because a criminal
Accordingly, if, as the court claims, a district court may only consider the factors listed in section 611A.045, subdivision 1(a), in determining the amount of a restitution award, the award of any amount of restitution must be based on economic loss resulting solely from the offense of conviction. But that is not what happened here. In this case, the victim's request for restitution is based on economic loss resulting from an assault. Riggs, however, did not plead guilty to nor was he convicted of an assault. Instead, Riggs pleaded guilty to and was convicted of making terroristic threats, in violation of Minn.Stat. § 609.713, subd. 1 (2014).
To the extent the district court is permitted to consider economic loss resulting from the circumstances surrounding the offense of conviction, i.e., the assault, to determine restitution, the district court should also be permitted to consider the circumstances surrounding the assault — including the victim's role as aggressor. Such a construction of section 611A.045 is, unlike the court's interpretation, internally consistent. Further, it is consistent with our precedent. The court seems to view the victim's role in the assault as too attenuated in its connection to the offense of conviction to be considered in determining "the amount of economic loss sustained by the victim as a result of the offense" under Minn.Stat. § 611A.045, subd. 1(a)(1). Although we have admonished district courts to be careful not to award restitution based on a claim "so attenuated in its cause that it cannot be said to result from the defendant's criminal act," State v. Palubicki, 727 N.W.2d 662, 667 (Minn.2007), we have permitted district courts to consider factors far less directly connected to the defendant's criminal conduct than any role the victim may have played in the circumstances leading up to the offense.
For these reasons, I respectfully dissent.
Minn.Stat. § 645.16.