Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s convictions for felony use or possession of property subject to criminal forfeiture, felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs, and other drug offenses, holding that the district court abused its discretion admitting evidence of Defendant’s Utah drug charges. During Defendant’s criminal trial, the district court allowed the State to introduce evidence as to Defendant’s Utah drug charges to prove intent. The jury returned a verdict of guilty on all charges. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that the evidence of Defendant’s Utah drug charges posed a substantial risk of unfair prejudice that outweighed the probative value of the evidence, and the admission of the evidence was not harmless. View "State v. Buckles" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the charges against him on the grounds that the State violated his statutory speedy trial rights under Mont. Code Ann. 46-13-401(2). At issue was whether, pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 46-13-401(2), good cause excused the State’s delay in bringing Defendant to trial within six months after the entry of his not guilty plea upon his two misdemeanor charges for partner or family member assault and violation of a no contact order. The Supreme Court held that, on the record, the State demonstrated good cause excusing its delay in trying Defendant beyond the six-month statutory timeframe. View "State v. Knippel" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction for criminal child endangerment by driving under the influence (DUI), holding that the district court erred by refusing to give lesser-included offense instructions for DUI and DUI per se. While setting jury instructions, Defendant requested instructions on DUI and DUI per se as lesser-included offenses of the child endangerment charges. The district court declined to give the lesser-included offense instructions on the ground that because Defendant challenged the underlying DUI, his defense would result in an acquittal on both the greater and included charges. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was some basis from which a jury could rationally conclude that Defendant was guilty of the lesser, but not the greater offense, and therefore, Defendant was entitled to lesser-included instructions. View "State v. Freiburg" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of charges related to marijuana possession and production and resisting arrest, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on her claims on appeal. Specifically, the Court held (1) Defendant’s marijuana-related convictions do not require reversal pursuant to the exemption from prosecution contained in the Montana Medical Marijuana Act where non-cardholder Defendant was merely in the vicinity of a cardholder’s authorized use of marijuana; and (2) Defendant’s conviction of resisting arrest was supported by substantial evidence. View "State v. Sutton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for sexual assault and sexual intercourse without consent against a minor, holding that there was no error during the trial proceedings requiring reversal. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of his Internet searches regarding incest and child pornography and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the evidence at issue was relevant and admissible under Mont. R. Evid. 404, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the evidence was not unfairly prejudicial or unfairly inflammatory; and (2) Defendant failed to demonstrate that his appellate counsel’s performance was deficient. View "State v. Colburn" on Justia Law

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Under the particular facts and circumstances of this case, the municipal court erred in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence. Defendant was found guilty of being a minor in possession of alcohol. Before her non-jury trial, Defendant moved for suppression of the State’s evidence of her age and date of birth on the asserted ground that the police unreasonably prolonged its initial investigative stop of her and that the police subjected her to a custodial interrogation without a rights advisory. The municipal court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) the police had sufficient particularized suspicion of criminal activity to initially stop Defendant and question her about her name, age, and conduct regarding the offense of minor in possession of alcohol; (2) the police had sufficient particularized suspicion of criminal activity to continue to detain Defendant for further investigation; but (3) the continuing temporary investigative stop and related non-custodial interrogation ripened into a custodial interrogation without a Miranda advisory and waiver, in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Mont. Const. art. II, 25, and therefore, the motion to suppress should have been granted. View "City of Missoula v. Kroschel" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the charge against him for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that the State’s appeal was not premature and that it had subject matter jurisdiction over the proceeding. The State charged Defendant with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) in the justice court. Defendant successfully moved to dismiss the State’s case on the ground that there was insufficient probable cause for Defendant’s arrest. Following the justice court’s oral order dismissing the State’s case but prior to its issuance of the written order, the State appealed to the district court. Defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that the State’s appeal was premature. The district court concluded (1) the State’s appeal was not premature; (2) the court had subject matter jurisdiction; and (3) there was sufficient probable cause to arrest Defendant. Defendant was subsequently convicted of DUI. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under Mont. Code ann. 46-17-311(2) and 46-20-103(20(a), the State’s appeal was not premature. Therefore, the district court did not err by denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "State v. Reger" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of criminal possession of methamphetamine and other drug offenses after law enforcement found drugs and paraphernalia in Defendant’s pickup truck during a traffic stop, holding that the district court committed reversible error when it curtailed Defendant’s cross-examination of Leslie Hill, the lone passenger in the vehicle at the time of the traffic stop. Specifically, the Court held that the district court abused its discretion when it excluded evidence of Hill’s plea agreement with the State and prevented Defendant from fully cross-examining Hill about her plea agreement, and the error prejudiced Defendant and required a new trial. View "State v. Flowers" on Justia Law

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The district court erred when it denied the motion to quash filed by attorney Shannon Sweeney seeking to quash a subpoena compelling Sweeney to testify regarding communications she may have had with her client, Dakota McClanahan, on a bail jumping charge. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order and ordered that the subpoena compelling Sweeney to testify on the state’s behalf be quashed, holding that the district court erred in denying the motion to quash the subpoena because, under Mont. Code Ann. 26-1-803(1), an attorney cannot be examined as to any advice given to her client. View "Sweeney v. Third Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part an order of the district court revoking Appellant’s suspended sentence and committing him to the Department of Corrections for ten years for commitment to an appropriate correctional facility or program. Appellant was convicted of murder in federal court and sentenced to life in federal prison. While on federal parole, Appellant committed the offense of robbery and was sentenced to a fifteen-year commitment to the Montana Department of Corrections. After discharging the unsuspended portion of his state sentence, Appellant was transferred to federal prison until he was released on federal parole and concurrent state probation. Appellant’s state sentence was subsequently revoked, and Appellant was resentenced to serve a ten-year commitment to the Department of Corrections for placement in an appropriate correctional facility or program. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court’s failure to specify that Appellant’s new sentence ran concurrently with any other sentence he was serving resulted in the imposition of an illegal sentence; (2) the district court erroneously failed to credit Appellant for time served in federal custody after he discharged on to state probation; and (3) Appellant waived his objection to the court’s failure to state the reason for not granting street time credit. View "State v. Youpee" on Justia Law