State v. Lee

State v. Lee, 2015 MT 259 (Sept. 1, 2015) (Baker, J.) (5-0, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court had authority to order the sale of Lee’s firearms and apply the proceeds to the costs of Lee’s incarceration in a county detention center.

Short Answer: No.

Reversed and remanded for entry of amended judgment

Facts: Lee was charged with robbery, assault with a weapon and burglary after allegations that he unlawfully entered a couple’s home in July 2013, pointed a gun and demanded money. Officers arrested Lee and confiscated weapons from his home and vehicle. Garfield County paid to incarcerate Lee until his sentencing in May 2014.

Lee pled nolo contender to all charges in exchange for the state not pursuing sentencing enhancements for using a dangerous weapon. At sentencing, the state sought restitution on behalf of Garfield County for incarcerating Lee for 216 days, plus medical treatment he required while incarcerated.

The district court sentenced Lee to 20 years at MSP for robbery, with 10 suspended, and 10 years each for assault and burglary to run concurrently with the robbery sentence. The court prohibited Lee from owning any firearms during the term of his sentences.

Procedural Posture & Holding: At oral pronouncement of his sentence, the district court directed the Garfield County sheriff to sell the firearms seized from Lee and apply the proceeds toward the cost of Lee’s incarceration, which the court found to be $12,630.27. The court did not impose restitution or fines but did impose numerous surcharges and fees. He declined to impose the costs of Lee’s prosecution or defense. Lee appeals his sentence, and the Supreme Court reverses.

Reasoning: The state concedes the district court lacked authority to order the proceeds of the sale of Lee’s firearms to be kept by Garfield County, but suggests the proper remedy is to remand with instructions to give the sale proceeds to Lee. However, the state has not petitioned for civil or criminal forfeiture, or for disposition of evidence. The district court had no statutory authority to order the sale of Lee’s firearms, and its order was illegal.