Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Shayna Hubbard appealed a district court judgment convicting her of driving with a suspended license and for failing to show proof of liability insurance. Hubbard went to a Montana casino to gamble. She was 19 and could legally gamble, but only patrons who were 21 years old and older were eligible to receive a gambling coupon. She provided another person’s identification to a casino employee to get the coupon. An employee who recognized Hubbard and knew she was using another person’s identification called the police. Police learned that Hubbard’s Oregon driver’s license was suspended, and informed Hubbard that it was illegal to use another person’s identification. Police decided not to cite her for the offense, and left the casino. The same responding officer at the casino observed Hubbard a short while later driving on the suspended license, and pulled her over. Hubbard was arrested for driving with a suspended license (and failing to provide proof of insurance). Hubbard appeared in Libby City Court, pled not guilty to the charges, and asked for appointment of a public defender. Counsel was appointed, and Hubbard was tried in absentia. Counsel thereafter filed a Notice of Appeal; a jury trial in district court was scheduled for later that year. Counsel and Hubbard conversed by email, wherein Hubbard explained her belief that the arresting officer entrapped her by allegedly telling her to drive from the casino, with knowledge her license was suspended, because her companion had been drinking. Counsel ultimately moved to withdraw from Hubbard’s representation, arguing that a new trial in District Court “would be frivolous or wholly without merit.” Counsel filed a supporting memorandum and attached several documents, including the email Hubbard had sent to him explaining why she believed she was entrapped. The District Court denied Counsel’s motion to withdraw. Hubbard argued on appeal that Counsel violated his duties of loyalty and confidentiality to her by attaching the email explaining her view on trial strategy, violating attorney-client privilege, and revealing inculpatory information that was not previously in the city court record, which the prosecution used to file a motion in limine to prevent the entrapment defense. She also argued the improperly disclosed information prejudiced her during trial, because it gave the prosecution the idea to inquire into where she lived and how she arrived in Libby, prior to the incident at the casino. The District Court denied the motion and, further, gave an instruction regarding the entrapment defense to the jury. Hubbard presented an entrapment defense and the jury considered whether entrapment applied. The Montana Supreme Court concluded Counsel’s disclosure did not render the trial result “fundamentally unfair” or “unreliable,” and that Hubbard could not show that there was a reasonable probability that, but for her counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. View "City of Libby v. Hubbard" on Justia Law

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Justin Dodge appealed a district court judgment and sentence imposing $14,438.44 in restitution following his guilty plea for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI). "The requirement of section 46-18-242, MCA, that a victim submit evidence specifically describing his or her pecuniary loss under oath in an affidavit or by testifying at sentencing is designed to ensure that restitution awards comply with basic principles of due process; that is, that an award is reliable." The Montana Supreme Court determined that the Department of Transportation’s failure to describe its loss under oath did not comply with the procedures and qualifications of 46-18-242, MCA, thus drawing into question the reliability of the award and Dodge’s substantial right to pay an accurate amount in restitution. The Court reversed the district court and remanded this case for resentencing for the limited purpose of reconsidering the restitution order. View "Montana v. Dodge" on Justia Law

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Murry Kim Reynolds was convicted of felony Driving While Under the Influence of Alcohol, fourth or subsequent offense (DUI), and two misdemeanors: Failure To Have Liability Insurance In Effect and Failure To Drive On The Right Side Of The Roadway. He did not challenge his convictions on appeal; however, he appealed a June 2016 Judgment in which the District Court imposed fines, surcharges, prosecution costs, public defender costs, and court technology fees. The Montana Supreme Court found only that the misdemeanor surcharges totaling $30 and the court technology fee for the misdemeanors totaling $20 were incorrectly imposed in the written judgment and therefore had to be stricken from Reynolds’s criminal sentence. The Court found no abuse of the district court's discretion and otherwise affirmed. View "Montana v. Reynolds" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court wherein Defendant pled guilty to felony driving under the influence of alcohol, fourth or subsequent offense, and three misdemeanors. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court violated his right to due process during sentencing and erred in sentencing him, and that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel during sentencing. The Supreme Court affirmed and remanded for entry of an amended judgment, holding (1) the district court did not deprive Defendant of his right to due process during sentencing; (2) the district court did not err in imposing a condition on Defendant’s suspended sentence; (3) Defendant was not deprived of effective assistance of counsel during sentencing; and (4) the sentencing conditions in the written judgment should be amended to conform to oral pronouncement of the conditions. View "State v. Lafield" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Petitioner’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Petitioner’s sentence of 110 years’ imprisonment, without the possibility of parole, for deliberate homicide with the use of a weapon did not violate his Eighth Amendment rights even where Petitioner committed the offense when he was seventeen years old. At issue was whether Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v. Louisiana, __ U.S. __ (2016), apply to Montana’s discretionary sentencing scheme and whether Petitioner’s sentence qualifies as a de facto life sentence to which Miller and Montgomery apply. The Supreme Court held (1) Miller and Montgomery apply to discretionary sentences in Montana; and (2) Petitioner’s sentence, when viewed in light of Petitioner’s eligibility for day-for-day good time credit and the concurrent sentence he was serving in Washington, did not qualify as a de facto life sentence to which Miller’s substantive rule applied. View "Steilman v. Michael" on Justia Law

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The State filed an amended information charging Defendant of thirteen counts. Thereafter, federal prosecutors obtained an indictment against Defendant for four federal charges. The State then filed a second amended in information to remove from the first amended information transactions that were the subject of the federal indictment. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, which the district court denied. A jury subsequently found Defendant guilty of aggravated kidnapping and sexual intercourse without consent. Defendant then pled guilty to federal count two and the other federal charges were dismissed. Upon Defendant’s second trial on the remaining State charges, the jury found Defendant guilty of all counts except for burglary and an alternative theft charge. Defendant moved to dismiss the state felony charges on statutory multiple prosecution grounds. The district court denied the motion. Before Defendant was sentenced on the state charges, he filed this appeal. The Supreme Court held (1) a defendant can appeal the denial of a motion for dismissal under Mont. Code Ann. 46-11-504(1) prior to the entry of a final judgment; and; (2) the district court did not err by denying Defendant’s motion under section 46-11-504(1) to dismiss the charges of deceptive practices, burglary, and felony theft, given his federal conviction for possession of stolen firearms. View "State v. Burton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the district court did not err in dismissing Defendant’s motion to dismiss the State’s petition to revoke her suspended sentence on the ground that there had been a four-year delay in executing the arrest warrant. In 2009, the district court issued a “Montana only” warrant for the arrest of Defendant, who was on probation. Thereafter, Defendant was convicted of another offense in Colorado, where, several times, Defendant was paroled and then her sentence was revoked. Defendant discharged her Colorado sentences in 2013. That same year, Defendant was arrested on the 2009 warrant. Defendant moved to dismiss the petition to revoke her suspended sentence, arguing that the State violated her right to due process by failing to bring her to court without unnecessary delay. The district court concluded that Defendant had not suffered a deprivation of due process and then determined that Defendant had violated the terms of her original sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the revocation petition. View "State v. Koon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Water Compact, holding that Mont. Const. art. II, section 18 did not require the Montana Legislature to approve the Compact or its administrative provisions. The Compact, negotiated between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, provided a unified system for the administration of water rights and the resolution of disputes on the reservation. The Compact was approved by the Montana Legislature in 2015. The Flathead Board of Joint Control brought suit against the State seeking to invalidate the Compact. The district court ruled (1) the challenged section of the Compact did not contravene Article II, Section 18 because it did not enact any new immunities from suit; but (2) the challenged section of the administrative provision provided new immunity to the State and, therefore, was covered by Article II, Section 18, and because the provision did not pass by a two-thirds majority of each house, it is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) none of the Compact’s provisions grant any state governmental agency new immunities from a potential lawsuit; and (2) the Legislature’s majority vote to approve and adopt the contract was consistent with subject provisions of the Montana Constitution. View "Flathead Joint Board of Control v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s two motions to dismiss the charges against him for sexual abuse of children. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse of children. Defendant reserved the right to appeal the district court’s denial of his two motions to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly found that there was sufficient evidence that a rational jury could have found Defendant guilty of sexual abuse of children because he knowingly possessed child pornography; and (2) Montana’s statutory definition of possession under Mont. Code Ann. 45-2-101(59) is not unconstitutionally vague as applied to Defendant’s conduct. View "State v. Harrington" on Justia Law

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Constitutional Initiative 116 (CI-116), commonly known as Marsy’s Law, violates the separate-vote requirement contained in Mont. Const. art. XIV, section 11. In this original petition for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, Petitioners challenged the constitutionality of CI-116, which, as enacted, amended Mont. Const. art. II by adding a new section 36, titled Rights of Crime Victims. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the procedure by which CI-116 was submitted to voters conformed to Montana’s constitutional requirements. The court held (1) this case was properly before this court as an original proceeding; (2) the single-subject requirement set forth in Mont. Const. art. V, section 11(e) applies to bills of the legislature and not to constitutional amendments; and (3) CI-116 violates the separate-vote requirement, set forth in Mont. Const. art. XIV, section 11, and is therefore void in its entirety. View "Montana Ass’n of Counties v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law