Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order vacating Defendant’s initial guilty plea to felony partner or family member assault (PFMA) and the court’s subsequent order accepting Defendant’s guilty plea to aggravated assault. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court had no authority to vacate his guilty plea to PFMA and that he was twice put in jeopardy for the same offense. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) Defendant waived his right to appeal the district court’s decision to vacate his guilty plea to PFMA in his later plea agreement for aggravated assault; and (2) the State’s prosecution of Defendant for aggravated assault did not compromise the protections against double jeopardy. View "State v. Stone" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s conviction motion to set aside his 2008 conviction for partner or family member assault (PFMA) and revocation of his suspended sentence. The attorney’s office sought to revoke Defendant’s suspended sentence after Defendant was again arrested for PFMA. Defendant filed a motion to set aside his 2008 conviction, arguing that the pre-2013 PFMA statute was unconstitutional. The district court denied Defendant’s motion, and Defendant admitted to the violations set forth in the petition to revoke. The Supreme Court held that Defendant forfeited his constitutional challenge to the PFMA statute when he voluntarily pleaded guilty in 2008. View "State v. Torres" on Justia Law

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The justice court properly denied Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained during the interrogation of Defendant by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Park (FWP) game wardens at a game check station. Defendant was charged with license, permit or tag offense; unlawful possession, transfer, or transport of game animal; and hunting or killing of a game animal over the legal limit. Defendant moved to suppress evidence gathered at the FWP check station, asserting that his incriminating statements were the fruits of an illegal interrogation. The justice court concluded that Defendant was not required to receive Miranda warnings because he was not subject to custodial interrogation at the check station. Defendant was then found guilty on all three counts. The district court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant was not taken into custody for purposes of Miranda, and therefore, the statements he made to FWP game wardens were admissible against him; and (2) under the totality of the circumstances, Defendant’s admissions and confession were voluntary. View "State v. Maile" on Justia Law

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Defendant entered a guilty plea to aggravated driving under the influence, reserving his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. After an evidentiary hearing on appeal, the district court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances, a corroborated tip from an identified citizen informant based, in part, on personal observations of a co-worker was sufficiently reliable to provide the law enforcement officer with particularized suspicion to stop Defendant’s vehicle. Therefore, the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress. View "State v. Zietlow" on Justia Law

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The district court did not err in ruling that Defendant’s federal conviction for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine did not bar a subsequent state prosecution for possession of dangerous drugs on double jeopardy grounds. Defendant pled guilty to a charge of conspiracy to distribute in federal court. Thereafter, Defendant moved to dismiss the State’s drug-related charges, arguing that the State prosecution violated Montana’s double jeopardy prohibition. The district court denied the motion to dismiss. Thereafter, Defendant entered an Alford plea to one count of felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s possession of methamphetamine for his personal use was a distinct and separate prosecutable offense pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 45-9-102(1). View "State v. Glass" on Justia Law

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In 2009, Appellant was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and sexual intercourse without consent. In 2011, Appellant filed a complaint against certain participants in his 2009 criminal trial, alleging that the victim unlawfully taped a conversation between the victim and Appellant, and the taping and subsequent use of the taped conversation by Defendants violated his constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment and the federal wiretap statute. The federal magistrate dismissed the complaint with prejudice for failure to state a claim. A federal district court judge affirmed. Appellant then filed a complaint in a Montana district court, alleging that the victim had recorded their telephone conversation and Defendants had used the taped conversation in violation of Montana’s privacy in communications state and his state and federal constitutional rights. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants, concluding that Appellant’s case was barred by the statute of limitations and the doctrine of res judicata. The court also declared Appellant a vexatious litigant and imposed a pre-filing order on him. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) properly applied the statute of limitations and doctrine of res judicata, and (2) did not abuse its discretion in finding Appellant to be a vexatious litigant and imposing a pre-filing order. View "Belanus v. Potter" on Justia Law

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Pursuant to a plea agreement, Defendant pleaded guilty to the possession of dangerous drugs and drug paraphernalia. Defendant preserved his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress evidence seized during the warrantless search of the vehicle he was driving. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court made sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law in its order denying Defendant’s motion to suppress to allow informed appellate review; and (2) the district court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress, as the police did not need to obtain Defendant’s consent to search the vehicle and its internal compartments. View "State v. Baty" on Justia Law

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Pursuant to a plea agreement, Defendant entered a plea of guilty to the charge of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs with intent to distribute. After a sentencing hearing, the district court imposed a six-year deferred sentence, with a $1,500 fine to be paid to the Eastern Montana Drug Task Force, and a $15,000 fine pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 45-9-130. Defendant appealed, challenging the imposition of the $15,000 fine. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the $15,000 fine was not a sentence enhancement that violated the requirements of Apprendi v. New Jersey and Mont. Code Ann. 46-1-401; (2) the $15,000 fine did not violate Montana’s constitutional prohibition of “excessive fines”; and (3) Defendant’s double jeopardy argument, which he did not raise below, did not warrant plain error review, and Defendant was not entitled to relief pursuant to the Lenihan Rule. View "State v. Le" on Justia Law

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Donnie Dorrell Nolan was incarcerated at the Yellowstone County Detention Facility at the time that RiverStone Health Care contracted with Yellowstone County to prove medical services for its inmates. Nolan filed a pro se complaint against RiverStone alleging that it violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments by denying him access to a prescribed pain medication while incarcerated. The district court dismissed Nolan’s complaint for lack of timely service of process. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly dismissed Nolan’s complaint due to his failure to comply with the mandatory rules for proper service of process on RiverStone. View "Nolan v. Riverstone Health Care" on Justia Law

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Friedel, LLC served a request on the Office of the Montana State Auditor, Commissioner of Securities and Insurance (Auditor) made pursuant to the “Right to Know” provision of the Montana Constitution. The Auditor provided Friedel a privilege log for nine documents that were not released. Friedel failed to object to the privilege log for over three months. Friedel subsequently filed another right-to-know request again asking for the information covered by the privilege log. Before the district court ruled on the request, the Auditor waived privilege and sent Friedel the requested information. Thereafter, Friedel requested attorney fees pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 2-3-221. The district court denied the request, concluding that Friedel took an unreasonable approach to resolving the discovery dispute. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Friedel’s request for attorney fees. View "Friedel v. Lindeen" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law