Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Appellant's petition to reinstate his driver's license after it was suspended following his refusal to submit to a post-arrest blood or breath test under Mont. Code Ann. 61-8-402, holding that the district court did not err by determining that the arresting officer had reasonable grounds to believe Appellant was driving a vehicle on Montana's public roadways while under the influence. Specifically, the Court held (1) the arresting officer had a sufficient particularized suspicion, stemming from a reliable informant's 911 call, that ripened into probable cause to arrest Appellant for driving under the influence and also had reasonable grounds to believe Appellant was driving while under the influence; and (2) because the officer appropriately requested that Appellant submit to post-arrest testing under section 61-8-402(a)(i), Appellant's refusal to do so properly resulted in a suspension of Appellant's driver's license. View "Indreland v. Montana Department of Justice" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court convicting Defendant of evidence tampering and deliberate homicide, holding that investigating officers had a reasonable suspicion of exigent circumstances justifying a no-knock entry into Defendant's residence and that the forensic search of Defendant's computer was not constitutionally infirm. At issue on appeal were weather the district court erred in denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to a search warrant that did not explicitly authorize a no-knock entry and whether the court properly denied Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained through a forensic search of his computer. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) State v. Anyan, 104 P.3d 511 (Mont. 2004), is overturned insofar as it requires investigating officers to obtain authorization from a judge to execute a no-knock entry, and officers may execute a no-knock entry where they have a reasonable suspicion of exigent circumstances justifying it; (2) officers may seize an electronic device pursuant to a warrant where the type of evidence the officers are looking for could reasonably be found on the device, and where officers are lawfully in possession of property, they may subsequently search the property pursuant to a search warrant; and (3) the jury instructions in this case were proper. View "State v. Neiss" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court's order denying Defendant's motion to dismiss for violation of his right to a speedy trial, holding that the 422-delay in resolving Defendant's felony driving under the influence (DUI) charge violated Defendant's constitutional right to a speedy trial. Defendant pleaded guilty to felony DUI 422 days after he was arrested and charged, a delay stretching far beyond the 200-day threshold. After examining the speedy trial violation under the four-factor test set forth in State v. Ariegwe, 167 P.3d 815 (Mont. 2007), the Supreme Court reversed, holding that the State violated Defendant's right to a speedy trial. The Court remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the charge. View "State v. Kurtz" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the district court affirming the decision and sentence of the municipal court finding Defendant guilty of partner of family member assault (PFMA) and criminal mischief, holding that Defendant's PFMA conviction must be reversed and that there were sentencing errors in Defendant's criminal mischief conviction. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court erred by affirming the municipal court's order that Defendant waived his right to a jury trial for his PFMA charge by failing to appear at an omnibus hearing; (2) certain provisions in Defendant's sentencing agreement requiring him to pay fines that were not statutorily authorized were illegal; and (3) Defendant was entitled to receive four days of credit for jail time served, instead of two days of credit, against his sentence. View "City of Kalispell v. Salsgiver" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court affirming the judgment of the justice court convicting Defendant of aggravated driving under the influence (DUI), holding that the justice court erred by permitting the State to introduce evidence of Defendant's prior DUI convictions in an aggravated DUI trial. In reversing Defendant's conviction, the Supreme Court held (1) the justice court erred when it allowed the State to introduce evidence of Defendant's prior DUI convictions during trial, and there was no reasonable possibility that the improperly admitted evidence of Defendant's prior DUIs might have contributed to her conviction; and (2) the trial should have been bifurcated to cure the unfair prejudice presented by evidence of Defendant's prior DUI convictions. View "State v. Holland" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Defendant's motions to suppress, holding that the district court reached the right result even if for the wrong reason. Defendant pled guilty to misdemeanor DUI per se, reserving his right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss. On appeal, Defendant argued that prior to the stop of his vehicle, there was no particularized suspicion to investigate him for any potential driving offense. The district court concluded that the police officer had particularized suspicion to investigate Defendant pursuant to an analysis under State v. Pratt, 951 P.2d 37 (Mont. 1997), and denied Defendant's motions to dismiss on that basis. The Supreme Court affirmed, albeit on different grounds, holding (1) the officer's approach to Defendant was a routine police encounter that did not require particularized suspicion; and (2) the officer acquired particularized suspicion for further investigation upon Defendant's voluntary participation in his questioning and testing. View "State v. Questo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss or for new trial in the alternative, holding that the district court abused its discretion when it determined that the failure to discover newly discovered evidence sooner was the result of a lack of diligence in Defendant's part. Defendant was found guilty of felony partner or family member assault. At trial, Defendant asserted a justifiable use of force defense, arguing that M.M. struck him in the face, resulting in a black eye, and that his hand hit M.M.'s face when he pushed her away. After he was convicted, Defendant became aware of photographs in the possession of the State showing Defendant with discoloration under his right eye. Post-trial, Defendant filed his motion seeking dismissal of the charge against him for the State's Brady violation or, alternatively, a new trial based on the discovery of new evidence. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that there was a reasonable probability that the evidence may have led to a different conclusion that but Defendant could have found the photographs with reasonable diligence. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that Defendant acted with due diligence. View "State v. Chavis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of aggravated assault and remanded the case for dismissal without prejudice, holding that the district court erred by denying Defendant's motion to dismiss for unnecessary delay between his arrest and initial appearance. On appeal, Defendant argued that his constitutional rights were violated when he suffered an unnecessary seventeen-day delay between his arrest and his initial appearance, justifying dismissal of the aggravated assault charge with prejudice. In response, the State argued that no unnecessary delay occurred because Defendant's initial appearance occurred the day after he was charged with aggravated assault. The Supreme Court held (1) while the charge was filed only one day before, Defendant's detention counted toward, and constituted, "unnecessary delay" in appearance under Mont. Code Ann. 46-7-101; and (2) Defendant did not experience prejudice from the delay that would require dismissal of the charge with prejudice. View "State v. Norvell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding Defendant guilty of criminal possession of dangerous drugs and drug paraphernalia and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI), holding that the district court did not err. Specifically, the Court held that the district court did not err when it (1) denied Defendant's motion in limine to prevent the arresting officer from testifying at trial; (2) denied Defendant's motion to suppress evidence seized from his vehicle where probable cause existed to issue a warrant authorizing a search of his truck; and (3) denied Defendant's motion to dismiss the DUI charge due to the State's failure to preserve video evidence where there was no reasonable probability that the outcome of Defendant's DUI charge would be different had the video not been overwritten. View "State v. Robertson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court affirming Defendant's sentence, including conditions restricting Defendant's contact with minors upon his release, holding that the court abused its discretion in ruling that there was a sufficient nexus between the conditions prohibiting contact with minors and Defendant or his offense. Defendant raped an unconscious woman in the parking lot of a bar. Defendant later pleaded guilty to sexual intercourse without consent. The district court imposed sentencing conditions restricting Defendant's contact with minors. On appeal, Defendant argued that because the victim was not a minor there was not a sufficient nexus between Defendant or his offense and the conditions protecting minors. The Supreme Court agreed and remanded the case for the limited purpose of striking the conditions regarding contact with minors, holding that the State presented insufficient arguments to establish the required nexus. View "State v. Mehan" on Justia Law