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State of Montana v. William Garrett Stops

May 14, 2013


APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Thirteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Yellowstone, Cause No. DC 09-0186 Honorable Gregory R. Todd, Presiding Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Patricia Cotter

May 14 2013

Submitted on Briefs: March 13, 2013



Justice Patricia O. Cotter delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶1 William Garrett Stops (Stops) appeals from an order of the Thirteenth Judicial District Court, Yellowstone County, denying his motion to dismiss based on an alleged violation of his speedy trial rights. We affirm.


¶2 Stops raises two issues on appeal. We restate these issues as follows:

¶3 1. Did the District Court provide sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law to enable appellate review of Stops' speedy trial arguments?

¶4 2. Did the District Court err in concluding that Stops' speedy trial rights had not been violated?


¶5 On April 9, 2009, Billings Police Department Officers Kostinko and Aguilar responded to a report of a possible drunk driver. A citizen complainant, who happened to be a retired Billings Police Officer, was following the suspected drunk driver and reported that the driver nearly caused two head-on collisions. Officer Kostinko located the suspect vehicle and executed a traffic stop. As Officer Kostinko exited his patrol car and approached the suspect, the suspect's vehicle began slowly backing up and eventually collided with the patrol car. Officer Kostinko drew his sidearm and waited for backup to arrive. Once Officer Aguilar arrived, Officer Kostinko removed the driver from his vehicle. Officer Chaney arrived shortly thereafter and all three officers assisted in arresting the driver and bringing him into custody. The driver was later identified as Stops. The arresting officers noted that Stops demonstrated various signs of alcohol impairment. Stops refused to perform field sobriety maneuvers and refused to provide a breath sample.

¶6 On April 14, 2009, Stops was arraigned on three charges: (1) operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (DUI), felony; (2) resisting arrest; and (3) operating a motor vehicle without proof of liability insurance. The City of Billings also requested restitution in the amount of $2,296.05 for damage to the patrol car. The charges constituted Stops' seventh lifetime DUI and second felony DUI. Stops appeared with a public defender and pleaded not guilty to all three counts.

¶7 On April 15, 2009, the Office of the Public Defender notified Stops and the District Court that Stops did not qualify for representation by a public defender. Stops appeared for a status of counsel hearing on June 22, 2009, and informed the District Court that he had obtained counsel, but his counsel would not be available for another three months. Stops orally moved for a continuance and waived his speedy trial rights. The District Court continued the trial date and set another status hearing for September 22, 2009.

¶8 On September 22, 2009, Stops again appeared without counsel at the status of counsel hearing. Stops informed the District Court that he was still trying to come up with the retainer fee necessary to retain counsel. The District Court scheduled an omnibus hearing for October 26, 2009. Stops appeared at the omnibus hearing without counsel. Since trial was set for December 16, 2009, the District Court scheduled a status hearing for December 7, 2009. On December 7, 2009, Stops appeared with counsel and moved to continue the trial date. Stops also filed a waiver of speedy trial rights. The District Court reset the trial date for April 29, 2010.

¶9 On March 23, 2010, Stops filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him. Stops alleged that the State intentionally suppressed evidence by withholding the video of the stop. Stops further alleged that the State impeded his right to an independent alcohol test by using excessive force while executing the arrest, which impaired his ability to make rational decisions. The State responded to Stops' motion to dismiss on April 7, 2010. The State countered that it had requested the video of the stop numerous times and was advised that no video footage existed. After an additional request, Officer Chaney searched the archives once again and discovered a video of the stop on April 5, 2010. The State provided this video, which did not contain sound, to Stops on April 6, 2010. The State also argued that Stops did not request an independent blood test and his right to such a test was not impeded. The District Court set an April 23, 2010 hearing date to address Stops' motion to dismiss.

¶10 On April 21, 2010, the State moved to continue the hearing on the motion to dismiss because two of the State's witnesses were unavailable. The District Court vacated the April 23, 2010 hearing and rescheduled it for April 27, 2010. After hearing testimony and considering the parties' briefing, the District Court denied Stops' motion to dismiss.

¶11 Stops filed a motion to continue the trial on April 27, 2010, citing the State's delay in providing the video and the fact that Stops recently provided his counsel with x-rays from Billings Clinic that purportedly supported his contention that the officers acted with excessive force. The State objected to Stops' motion to continue. Stops' motion to continue was accompanied by a waiver of his right to a speedy trial. The District Court rescheduled the trial for November 22, 2010.

¶12 On November 15, 2010, the State moved for a continuance to accommodate the unavailability of one of the State's witnesses. Once again, the District Court vacated the trial date and rescheduled trial for February 9, 2011.

ΒΆ13 On January 10, 2011, Stops filed a motion to dismiss based on a violation of his speedy trial rights. Stops filed his brief in support of his motion to dismiss on January 19, 2011. Stops argued that 530 of the 667 days of delay should be attributed to the State. The State countered that 217 days of delay should be attributed to the State with 138 days of the delay attributable to institutional delay. The State argued that much of the delay was ...

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