Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Defendant's request for credit for time served while he was released on bail during the pendency of his probation revocation proceeding, holding that a district court did not abuse its discretion in denying credit for "street time" served under the sentence. Defendant was sentenced for two counts of felony partner or family member assault. Later, the district court found that Defendant had violated the terms of his suspended sentence. Defendant requested that the district court grant him credit against his sentence under Mont. Code Ann. 46-18-203(7)(b) for four months of "street time" he had served on his sentence between his release on bond and sentencing. The district court denied the request. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by denying street time credit because there was evidence in the record that Defendant committed a violation of his sentence during the relevant period. View "State v. Jardee" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed all but one of Defendant's convictions for six felonies stemming from a Ponzi scheme he devised that defrauded investors of $2 million, holding that one of the convictions violated the "multiple charges statute," Mont. Code Ann. 46-11-410, but the rest of the convictions may stand. Defendant was convicted of exploitation of an older person (common scheme), theft by embezzlement, (common scheme), failure to register as a securities salesperson (common scheme), failure to register a security (common scheme), fraudulent practices (common scheme), and operating a pyramid promotion scheme (common scheme). Defendant appealed, arguing that section 46-11-410(2)(a) precluded his convictions on five of the six counts with which he was charged because they were "included offenses" or "specific instances" of fraudulent practices. The Supreme Court held (1) Defendant's conviction for theft by embezzlement violates section 46-11-410 and must be vacated; but (2) Defendant's remaining convictions do not violate the multiple charges statute. View "State v. Brandt" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court finding Defendant guilty of one count of partner or family member assault and one count of deliberate homicide, holding that the court erred in admitting some of the deceased victim's out-of-court statements, but the error was harmless. Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant's motion to sever the counts; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it excluded evidence of the victim's drug use and denied Defendant's motion for a new trial; (3) the district court abused its discretion in admitting the victim's out-of-court statements as evidence of her state of mind, but the error was harmless; and (4) there were no grounds to apply the doctrine of cumulative error in this case. View "State v. Gomez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the district court denying Appellant's application for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, ruling that holding individuals pursuant to a federal civil immigration detainer request is an arrest under Montana law and that a detainer request is not an arrest warrant and does not compel the re-arrest of a person otherwise entitled to release. Plaintiff was arrested and booked into county jail. When Plaintiff attempted to post his bond, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (Border Patrol) sent the jail a civil immigration detainer request under the Immigration and Nationality Act and informed the bond company that the sheriff would continue to detain Plaintiff. Consequently, Plaintiff's bondsman declined to post his bond, and Plaintiff was not released. Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that the sheriff violated Montana law in honoring the Border Patrol's request. The district court ruled against Plaintiff. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that Plaintiff's continued detention for a new purpose when he was otherwise entitled to release was an arrest under Montana law, and the sheriff lacked state arrest authority to detain Plaintiff on the basis of his potential removal under federal immigration law. View "Ramon v. Short" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of felony sexual assault, holding that the court did not err by denying Defendant's for-cause challenge of a prospective juror. During voir dire, defense counsel moved to remove Juror G. for cause based on her responses to the question of whether jurors would be inclined to believe a child witness's testimony regarding sexual abuse. The district court denied the motion, and defense counsel subsequently used a peremptory challenge to remove Juror G. The jury found Defendant guilty of sexual assault. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that because Juror G.'s voir dire statements evinced an inability to act with impartiality and without prejudice toward Defendant the district court erred by denying Defendant's for-cause challenge of Juror G. View "State v. Ghostbear" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's denial of Appellant's motion to strike a prior conviction for purposes of enhancing Appellant's DUI charge to a felony, holding that the district court did not err by relying on a 1990 Texas DWI conviction for purposes of enhancing Appellant's penalty. Appellant pled guilty to felony DUI and other offenses. On appeal, Defendant challenged the denial of his motion to strike his prior conviction, arguing that the district court erred by concluding that the State provided competent proof of his 1990 Texas DWI conviction because Defendant's National Crime Information criminal record report did not also include information about a sentence or judgment. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the State provided competent proof of the Texas conviction under application of the presumption of regularity, which Appellant did not rebut. View "State v. Holder" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court upholding the ruling of the municipal court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of probable cause the criminal trespass charge against him, holding that the municipal court did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant's motion to dismiss. Defendant was convicted of criminal trespass to property for entering the fenced backyard of a residence during the night. Defendant appealed the denial of his motion to dismiss. The district court affirmed, concluding that the residential backyard came within the definition of "premises" in the Criminal Code as "any type of structure or building and real property," which did not to be posted to deny a privilege to enter. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that there was no basis to conclude that the legislature intended to impose a requirement upon property owners in residential neighborhoods to post notice in order to deny or revoke a privilege to enter their property. View "City of Bozeman v. Lehrer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of felony DUI, disorderly conduct, and driving with a suspended license, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on his unpreserved claim that the district court violated his fundamental right to be present when it discuss with counsel in his absence the potential substitution of an alternate juror. During trial, the trial was continued and the jury was excused. Several days later when the trial resumed a juror failed to appear. The court met with counsel to discuss the juror's absence, but counsel did not object to Defendant's absence. The court decided not to substitute an alternate juror, and the trial resumed that day after the juror arrived. The jury subsequently found Defendant guilty. On appeal, Defendant argued that by holding the conversations regarding the absent juror in his absence the district court violated his right to be present. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the violation of Defendant's right to be present did not result in a miscarriage of justice or call the fundamental fairness of his trial into question. View "State v. George" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), fourth offense, a felony under Mont. Code Ann. 61-8-401, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss. On appeal, Defendant argued that his Montana conviction for felony DUI was erroneous because it was based on previous DUI convictions from Alaska in 2003, 2007, 2009 under an Alaska statute that was dissimilar to Montana's DUI statute. Therefore, Defendant argued that the three prior Alaska DUI convictions did not qualify as predicate offenses for felony enhancement under Mont. Code Ann. 61-8-731(1). The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the district court properly determined that Defendant's prior convictions under Alaska's DUI statute required a "similar" standard of impairment to Montana's DUI statute, and therefore, Defendant's three prior Alaska DUI convictions qualified as predicate offenses for enhancement purposes under Montana's felony DUI statute. View "State v. Lund" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the jury verdict and subsequent judgment and sentence issued by the district court convicting Defendant of misdemeanor criminal trespass and felony criminal mischief resulting from Defendant unlawfully entering a pipeline facility and damaging the pipeline's property, holding that the district court did not err in its rulings. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the district court (1) did not err in denying Defendant's request to assert the common law defense of necessity or in refusing Defendant's necessity defense instructions because the common law defense of necessity was not available to Defendant under the circumstances of this case; (2) did not err in denying Defendant's motion for directed verdict as to the criminal mischief charge; and (3) did not err in ordering restitution in the amount of $3,755.47. View "State v. Higgins" on Justia Law