State v. Stops

State v. Stops, 2013 MT 131 (May 14, 2013) (5-0) (Cotter, J.)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court’s FOF/COLs were sufficient to allow appellate review; and (2) whether the district court erred in holding that Stops’ speedy trial rights were not violated.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, and (2) no.


Facts: In April 2009, Stops was arrested and arraigned for DUI, resisting arrest, and operating a vehicle without proof of liability insurance. The charges were his 7th lifetime DUI and second felony DUI charges. Stops pled not guilty to all counts through a public defender, but then learned he did not qualify for representation by a PD. At a status hearing, Stops moved for a continuance and waived his speedy trial rights. Three months later, Stops told the district court he wills till trying to come up with the money to retain counsel. Nine days before trial, Stops appeared with counsel and move to continue the trial. He filed a waiver of speedy trial rights. Over the next year, Stops and the state both filed for continuances.

Procedural Posture & Holding: In January 2011, Stops moved to dismiss based on a violation of his speedy trial rights. The court denied the motion and held trial in April 2011. The jury found Stops guilty of felony DUI and not guilty of resisting arrest. Stops was sentenced as a persistent felony offender to 20 years in the state prison with 10 suspended, and ordered to pay restitution for a patrol car he damaged. Stops appeals and the Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: (1) A district court must enter findings of fact and conclusions of law as to each of the four factors used in analyzing a speedy trial claim; otherwise, appellate review is impossible and the case will be remanded. The record here is not a “model of clarity,” but is sufficient for appellate review.

(2) The Court analyzes the four Ariegwe factors and affirms the lower court’s dismissal of Stops’ motion to dismiss. While the length of delay was significant (740 days), 533 of those days were properly attributed to Stops. Stops’ actions did not suggest he was trying to get to trial more quickly than he did. Stops did not suffer prejudice from the delay. Balancing these factors leads the Court to conclude Stops was not deprived of his constitutional right to a speedy trial.