Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Watts

Supreme Court of Montana

December 20, 2016

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
BILLY JOE WATTS, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: October 26, 2016

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the First Judicial District, In and For the County of Lewis and Clark, Cause No. BDC 2014-280 Honorable Jeffrey M. Sherlock, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Chad Wright, Chief Appellate Defender, Moses Okeyo, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana.

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Katie F. Schulz, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Leo Gallagher, Lewis and Clark County Attorney, Luke Berger, Deputy County Attorney, Helena, Montana.

          OPINION

          Mike McGrath Chief Justice.

         ¶1 Billy Joe Watts (Watts) appeals from the District Court's denial of his motion to dismiss his previous Partner Family Member Assault (PFMA) convictions based on the unconstitutionality of the PFMA statute. We affirm.

         ¶2 We restate the issue on appeal as follows:

         Did the District Court err when it denied Watts' motion to dismiss his felony conviction of Partner Family Member Assault and reduce his charge to a misdemeanor at sentencing?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 The State charged Watts with his fifth PFMA, a felony, for conduct occurring on June 23, 2014. Watts was on probation for a 2012 PFMA conviction. Watts has four prior PFMA convictions (2002 misdemeanor; 2003 misdemeanor; 2003 felony; and 2012 felony). The State filed a notice to classify Watts as a persistent felony offender (PFO) based on his 2003 and 2012 PFMA convictions.

         ¶4 Watts negotiated a plea agreement with the State where he agreed to plead guilty to PFMA (a felony) and the State agreed to withdraw the PFO notice. The plea agreement Watts signed included a proper acknowledgement and waiver of rights. The form provided that Watts understood and had the opportunity to examine the charges against him with his attorney; that his attorney fully advised and explained to him his rights, and the possible punishment for his crime; that Watts waived all the rights guaranteed by a trial, except the right to effective assistance of counsel; and that Watts was not threatened, coerced, forced, intimidated, or influenced in any way.

         ¶5 Watts voluntarily pled guilty on December 18, 2014. During the colloquy the judge informed Watts of his right to remain silent, which Watts waived by answering questions. Watts informed the court he was of sound mind, not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, was happy with his attorney's work and understood the maximum punishment for his crime as well as the fact he could receive consecutive sentences for violating his parole. Watts did not reserve his right to appeal any issue.

         ¶6 At the February 24, 2015 sentencing hearing Watt's counsel advised the court she intended to file a brief challenging his prior convictions and the constitutionality of Montana's PFMA statute. In her brief, counsel argued the Montana PFMA statute violated the Equal Protection Clause of the United States and Montana Constitutions. Watt's counsel also filed a motion requesting that the District Court dismiss the felony PFMA charge, reducing it to a misdemeanor. The District Court denied the motion based on an equal protection clause analysis and the severability of the alleged offending language. Watts appeals.

         STANDARD ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.