State v. Case

State v. Case, 2013 MT 192 (July 16, 2013) (5-0) (Baker, J.)

Issue: Whether the district court erred when it upheld the denial of Case’s motion to dismiss on speedy trial grounds.

Short Answer: No.

Facts: Case was charged with Partner or Family Member Assault (PFMA) in July 2011. The state alleged the charge was a felony, as Case had twice been convicted of PFMA.

Case entered a not guilty plea on Oct. 26, 2011. The district court dismissed the felony charge that same day after the state conceded that one of Case’s prior PFMA charges had been dismissed. The state filed a misdemeanor PFMA charge in justice court that day.

Case entered a not guilty plea to them misdemeanor charge on Nov. 15, 2011. The court set trial for May 5, 2012.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Case moved to dismiss on March 23, 2012 for the state’s failure to bring his case to trial within six months of his initial plea on the dismissed felony charge. The justice court denied the motion, and Case pled guilty to disorderly conduct, reserving his right to appeal the denial of his motion to dismiss to the district court. The district court affirmed the denial, and Case appeals. The Supreme Court affirms.

Reasoning: Montana’s statutory speedy-trial protections in misdemeanors are stricter than the constitutional analysis applied to felonies. The district court concluded Case had a right to be brought to trial within six months after he entered a not guilty plea to the misdemeanor PFMA charge on Nov. 15, 2011. Case argues the clock should start on Aug. 18, 2011, the day he pled guilty to the felony charge, because it was a felony only on paper as he had only one prior conviction of PFMA. The state argues that it dismissed the felony charge and refiled the misdemeanor, and that the speedy trial clock should therefore run only on that charge. The Supreme Court agrees, relying on State v. Topp, 2003 MT 209.