State v. Spady

State v. Spady, 2015 MT 218 (July 30, 2015) (McGrath, C.J.) (7-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred when it granted Spady’s motion to dismiss and concluded the 24/7 Sobriety Program is unconstitutional.

Short Answer: The Court holds that the 24/7 program is constitutional, but that state law and due process require an individualized assessment to determine whetherae defendant is an appropriate candidate for the program. Because the justice court did not conduct such an assessment here, the Court affirms the district court’s decision to remand Spady’s case to justice court with instructions to dismiss the contempt charges against him.

Affirmed and reversed, remanded with instructions

Facts: The 2011 Legislature enacted the 24/7 Sobriety Program Act, §§ 44-4-1201 through -1206, MCA. The statute permits a court, as a condition of pretrial release of an individual accused of a second or subsequent drunk driving offense, to require the individual to submit to twice-daily alcohol breath tests, and pay the associated fees. A person who purposely fails to comply commits criminal contempt.

Roberty Spady was arrested in April 2013 and charged with DUI and careless driving. He pled not guilty at his initial appearance. The justice court ordered Spady to participate in the 24/7 program as one of eight conditions of release on bond. Spady had one prior DUI conviction in 2006.

Spady missed three tests. In August 2013, after 113 days of participation, he moved to lift the testing requirement, and the justice court granted the motion. The prosecutor charged Spady with three counts of criminal contempt for the three missed tests. Spady moved to dismiss the charges, arguing that § 44-4-1205, MCA was (1) unconstitutionally overbroad, (2) a violation of the 8th Amendment right to be free from excessive bail, (3) a violation of the equal protection guarantee of the 14th amendment, and (5) a violation of the 5th amendment due process right to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Spady also argues the statute is unconstitutional as applied to him because he had no opportunity to present evidence of his ability to pay and he was charged with a first offense DUI.

The justice court denied the motion to dismiss. In September 2013, Spady entered into a plea agreement whereby he pled nolo contendre to the contempt charges in exchange for the state’s dismissal of the DUI and careless driving charges, and reserved his right to appeal the justice court’s denial of his motion to dismiss.

In October 2013, Spady appealed to the district court and moved to dismiss the contempt charges. After a hearing, the court granted the motion to dismiss, concluding the statute was unconstitutionally vague, an improper delegation of legislative authority, and that the fees constitute pretrial punishment in violation of defendants’ due process rights.

The district court remanded to justice court with instructions to allow Spady to withdraw his nolo contender plea, grant his motion to dismiss the contempt charges, and to proceed to trial on the original charges if the state sought to renew them.

Procedural Posture & Holding: The state appealed, and the Court decided to exercise its powers of supervisory control because of the unique procedural obstacles in this case. It is reviewing (1) the constitutional issues upon which the district court relied in declaring the 24/7 program unconstitutional, and (2) the 4th Amendment search and seizure implications of the 24/7 program. The Court held oral argument on April 27, 2015.

Reasoning: The Court begins by noting that the 2011 version of the statute applies to this case. The district court erred in holding that the 2013 version of § 44–4–1203(2) and (3), MCA, constitutes an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority. As to that portion of the order, the district court is reversed. The district court is also reversed on its holding that § 44-4-1204, MCA, is an unconstitutional delegation of power to the executive branch. The statute does not give the AG unfettered discretion.

The required breath tests are a search, and must be reasonable. However, the defendants in the 24/7 program have a diminished expectation of privacy. Drunk driving presents a serious risk to public safety, and the privacy interests implicated by a twice-daily breath test are minimal. The Court holds that the 24/7 sobriety program, as provide in § 44-4-1205, MCA, does not infringe on the privacy expectations of pretrial detainees, and the state’s compelling interest outweighs any privacy concerns.

The state may not punish a pretrial detainee, but it may impose conditions that are part of a legitimate governmental purpose and not intended as punishment. The Court concludes the fees required under the 24/7 sobriety program do not have a punitive effect and are similar to other fees imposed on defendants for the privilege of pretrial release. The fee covers the program costs. The program’s purpose is squarely within the state state’s power to protect its citizens. The Court holds that the fees are not excessive in comparison to the statute’s purposes, and have no punitive impact on criminal defendants.

Nonetheless, state law and due process require the court to conduct an individualized assessment of the appropriateness of the condition for each defendant. Here, nothing in the record indicates that the justice court considered whether twice-daily testing of Spady was necessary, impractical, or financially feasible. The Court therefore affirms the district court’s decision to remand the case to justice court with instructions to dismiss the contempt charges.

Spady conceded at oral argument that the 2013 statute cured the facial vagueness issue. The Court declines to address the as-applied vagueness challenge, as it has already affirmed the district court’s decision to remand with is instructions to dismiss.