Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the judgment of conviction convicting Defendant of four counts of felony violation of a protective order, holding that the district court erred in failing to address Defendant’s speedy trial claim. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred by denying his motion to dismiss in which he collaterally challenged the validity of the underlying 2006 protective order and erred by failing to analyze his speedy trial claim. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court did not err by denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the charges at issue and did not err by failing to grant a new trial or otherwise set aside Defendant’s verdict of conviction in this case; and (2) based on the State’s concession, the district court erroneously failed to address Defendant’s speedy trial claim. View "State v. Huffine" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the charge of sexual intercourse without consent of a minor under sixteen years old for the 1987 rape of an eight-year-old girl, holding that Mont. Code Ann. 45-1-205(9) violates the Ex Post Facto clause when applied, as here, to cases in which the statutory of limitations expired before subsection (9) came into effect. In denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss, the district court determined that section 43-1-205(9), which was passed after the statute of limitations for the charged crime had expired, revived the otherwise time-barred prosecution of Defendant. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) on its face, the statute is retrospective in its operation; and (2) Stogner v. California, 539 U.S. 607 (2003), compels the conclusion that the charges against Defendant must be dismissed. View "Tipton v. Montana Thirteenth Judicial District Court" on Justia Law

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Montana’s Preferred Provider Agreements Act (MPPAA), Mont. Code Ann. 33-22-1701 to -1707, does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Montana Constitution. Plaintiff sought and received treatment from St. Peter’s Hospital for various injuries and symptoms. Because Plaintiff did not have health insurance the Hospital billed Plaintiff directly, but almost all of Plaintiff’s treatments costs were either covered by another party’s insurance or significantly discounted by the Hospital’s financial-need discount. Plaintiff brought this lawsuit arguing that the statutes authorizing the Hospital’s billing practices violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Montana Constitution. The district court concluded that the MPPAA creates similarly situated classes but does not violate Plaintiff’s equal protection rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the MPPAA, which authorizes the Hospital’s billing practices, does not deprive Plaintiff of her right to equal protection. View "Gazelka v. St. Peter's Hospital" 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 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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In this case governed by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court to terminate Father’s rights to his minor child (Child), holding that Father’s contentions on appeal were unavailing. Specifically, the Court held (1) Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services provided the active efforts required under 25 U.S.C. 1912(d) to prevent the breakup of an Indian family; (2) Father did not establish that the Child was placed in a foster home in violation of the placement preferences set forth in 25 U.S.C. 1915; and (3) Father’s attorney did not provide ineffective assistance of counsel. View "In re A.L.D." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for driving under the influence (DUI), holding that the district court did not err by denying Defendant’s motion to suppress blood test results obtained by a search warrant because Defendant’s due process were not violated. Defendant moved to suppress blood tests obtained pursuant to a telephone search warrant, asserting a violation of due process by the officer’s failure to advise Defendant of his right to an independent blood draw. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, including that the advisory’s reading was impeded by Defendant, there was no fundamental unfairness, and the circumstances fell short of a denial of due process. View "State v. Moore" on Justia Law

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Mont. Code Ann. 39-8-207(8)(b)(i), which extends the exclusivity remedy of the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA) from a professional employer organization (PEO) to its client, does not violate Mont. Const. art. II, 16 by depriving an injured worker of full legal redress. PEOs hire employees and assign them to the PEO’s client businesses on an ongoing basis. Defendant entered into a contract with a licensed PEO. The PEO hired Plaintiff and assigned him to Defendant. After Plaintiff suffered an on-the-job injury, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant, alleging that his injuries occurred because of Defendant’s failure to provide a safe workplace. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant, concluding that Plaintiff’s claim was barred by the exclusivity provision of the WCA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that since both the PEO and Defendant were immediate employers who hired Plaintiff and provided workers’ compensation coverage, they were both entitled to the exclusive remedy of Article II, Section 16. View "Ramsbacher v. Jim Palmer Trucking" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court concluding that the weighted average discount ratio (WADR), codified in Mont. Code Ann. 16-2-101(2)(b)(ii)(B), violated liquor store owners’ (collectively, Storeowners) rights to substantive due process and equal protection. The WADR was effective from 1995 to 2016. The State, Department of Revenue (DOR) sold liquor to certified liquor stores (agency liquor stores) and provided those stores with three discounts, one of which was the WADR. The agency liquor stores sold the liquor to individual retail customers and licensed taverns and bars (licensees). When the agency liquor stores sold to licensees whole or unbroken cars of liquor, known as case lots, section 16-2-201(1) required them to provide a separate discount (case discount). Four liquor store owners certified as a class representing similarly situated liquor store owners filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the WADR. Specifically, Storeowners claimed that the WADR should have fully reimbursed them for the cost of providing the case discount to Licensees. The district court concluded that the WADR was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the WADR did not violate Storeowners’ rights to substantive due process and equal protection and was, rather, a constitutional part of a statutory scheme designed to privatize liquor stores in Montana. View "Kohoutek v. State, Department of Revenue" on Justia Law