Cowen v. ColoradoAnnotate this Case
Jared Cowen owned a semi-truck that needed extensive maintenance. To pay the $37,485.65 repair bill, Cowen borrowed $15,000 from his brother and wrote two checks from his company’s bank account, one for $9,327.65 and the other for $13,158.00. Cowen admitted at trial that he knew he did not have sufficient funds to cover the checks when he wrote them, and his bank records corroborated his testimony. Believing it had been paid in full when it received Cowen’s checks, the repair shop released the semi-truck to him. A few days later, it learned that both of Cowen’s checks had failed to clear and that Cowen had issued a stop-payment on them. Cowen was thereafter charged with two counts of fraud by check: one count for each of the checks. He defended against the charges by asserting that he did not intend to defraud the repair shop. The jury convicted Cowen of the charge related to the first check, but acquitted him of the charge related to the second check. As part of Cowen’s sentence, the State requested restitution in the amount of $22,485.65, the total amount of the two checks. Cowen objected to any restitution being imposed for pecuniary losses suffered by the repair shop as a result of the second check because he was acquitted of the charge involving that check. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the State's request, finding that they had proven by a preponderance of the evidence that Cowen had written both checks knowing he had insufficient funds in his company’s account to cover them. The trial court acknowledged Cowen’s acquittal of the charge related to the second check, but explained that it was “absolutely convinced . . . , by far more than a preponderance of the evidence,” that Cowen knew he had failed to secure the financing company’s loan to fund that check. The issue this case presented for the Colorado Supreme Court's review centered on whether Colorado’s restitution statutes authorized a trial court to order a defendant who has been acquitted of a charge to pay restitution for pecuniary losses caused by the conduct that formed the basis of that charge. A division of the court of appeals upheld the restitution order in an unpublished, unanimous decision. The Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate division, however, and reversed.