Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part Defendant’s conviction for deliberate homicide with a weapons enhancement, tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, and criminal endangerment, holding that the district court committed an evidentiary error and that there was insufficient evidence to support Defendant’s conviction for tampering with the evidence. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court abused its discretion by granting the State’s motion in liming excluding a methamphetamine pipe and the alleged drug use of a State witness that Defendant sought to introduce for impeachment purposes; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion by giving a “first-aggressor” instruction to the jury; and (3) there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction of evidence tampering. View "State v. Polak" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part judgments entered in the district court following Defendant’s guilty pleas to felony driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and misdemeanor driving while license suspended or revoked and to felony bail jumping. The Court held (1) the district court did not violate Defendant’s due process rights to have judgment rendered in a reasonable time after entering his guilty pleas by granting Defendant’s motions to continue sentencing; (2) the district court erroneously included a public defender fee in each of its two written judgments after orally stating that it would impose only a single fee; and (3) the district court erroneously imposed an information technology surcharge on a per-count basis. View "State v. Clawson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for aggravated burglary and four counts of assault with a weapon, entered after a jury trial. The Court held (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence that Defendant was affiliated with a gang; (2) the district court did not err by denying Defendant’s motion for mistrial after a witness testified that there was an “active warrant” for Defendant’s arrest at the time of the assaults; and (3) sufficient evidence supported the jury’s determination that Defendant assaulted Garrick Gonzales with a weapon. View "State v. Michelotti" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s convictions for felony use or possession of property subject to criminal forfeiture, felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs, and other drug offenses, holding that the district court abused its discretion admitting evidence of Defendant’s Utah drug charges. During Defendant’s criminal trial, the district court allowed the State to introduce evidence as to Defendant’s Utah drug charges to prove intent. The jury returned a verdict of guilty on all charges. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that the evidence of Defendant’s Utah drug charges posed a substantial risk of unfair prejudice that outweighed the probative value of the evidence, and the admission of the evidence was not harmless. View "State v. Buckles" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the charges against him on the grounds that the State violated his statutory speedy trial rights under Mont. Code Ann. 46-13-401(2). At issue was whether, pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 46-13-401(2), good cause excused the State’s delay in bringing Defendant to trial within six months after the entry of his not guilty plea upon his two misdemeanor charges for partner or family member assault and violation of a no contact order. The Supreme Court held that, on the record, the State demonstrated good cause excusing its delay in trying Defendant beyond the six-month statutory timeframe. View "State v. Knippel" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction for criminal child endangerment by driving under the influence (DUI), holding that the district court erred by refusing to give lesser-included offense instructions for DUI and DUI per se. While setting jury instructions, Defendant requested instructions on DUI and DUI per se as lesser-included offenses of the child endangerment charges. The district court declined to give the lesser-included offense instructions on the ground that because Defendant challenged the underlying DUI, his defense would result in an acquittal on both the greater and included charges. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was some basis from which a jury could rationally conclude that Defendant was guilty of the lesser, but not the greater offense, and therefore, Defendant was entitled to lesser-included instructions. View "State v. Freiburg" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of charges related to marijuana possession and production and resisting arrest, holding that Defendant was not entitled to relief on her claims on appeal. Specifically, the Court held (1) Defendant’s marijuana-related convictions do not require reversal pursuant to the exemption from prosecution contained in the Montana Medical Marijuana Act where non-cardholder Defendant was merely in the vicinity of a cardholder’s authorized use of marijuana; and (2) Defendant’s conviction of resisting arrest was supported by substantial evidence. View "State v. Sutton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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