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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 affirmed the orders of the district court terminating Father’s parental rights to his minor children, X.B. and I.B. On appeal, Father argued that the district court abused its discretion in determining that he did not successfully complete his treatment plan and in concluding that the conduct or condition rendering him unfit was unlikely to change within a reasonable time. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Father failed successfully to complete an appropriate treatment plan and did not err in concluding that Father’s conduct or condition rendering him unfit to parent was unlikely to change within a reasonable amount of time. View "In re X.B." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family 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 denied the Montana Mining Association’s (MMA) request to overrule the Attorney General’s determination that Initiative 186 (I-186) is legally sufficient in this original proceeding. If enacted, I-186 would alter the mine permitting process by adding a requirement to mines’ reclamation plans. The Attorney General determined that the initiative was legally sufficient. MMA filed this original action asking the Supreme Court to determine that I-186 violates Mont. Code Ann. 13-27-105, which requires that an initiative issue delegating rulemaking authority be “effective no sooner than October 1 following approval.” The Supreme Court denied MMA’s request, holding that the issue of whether I-186 delegates rulemaking authority is outside the scope of the Attorney General’s legal-suffiency review, and therefore, the issue is also outside the scope of the Supreme Court’s pre-election initiative review. View "Montana Mining Ass’n v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election 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

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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