Submitted on Briefs: January 4, 2017
FROM: District Court of the First Judicial District, In and
For the County of Lewis and Clark, Cause No. DDC 15-221
Honorable James P. Reynolds, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Palmer A. Hoovestal, Hoovestal Law Firm, PLLC,
Appellee Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Jonathan
M. Krauss, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana,
Thomas J. Jodoin, Helena City Attorney, Iryna O'Connor,
Deputy City Attorney, Helena, Montana
Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court
Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum
opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as
precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition
shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of
noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and
John Andrew Schroeder appeals the First Judicial District
Court's order affirming the Helena Municipal Court's
judgment against him for driving under the influence (DUI).
Helena Police Officer Andrew Barton observed Schroeder's
vehicle stopped in a left-turn-only lane at a red light on
December 17, 2014, at around 11:50 p.m. When the light turned
green, Schroeder accelerated and merged into the lane
continuing straight through the intersection without using
his turn signal. Officer Barton observed Schroeder's car
"fishtail" while making a turn moments later.
Officer Barton initiated a traffic stop of Schroeder's
vehicle. As he spoke with Schroeder, he noticed that
Schroeder's speech was slurred, that his eyes were
"glossy, " and that his breath smelled of alcohol.
Schroeder told Officer Barton that he had consumed one beer
that night. He refused to submit to standard field sobriety
tests, a breath test, or a blood test. Officer Barton placed
Schroeder under arrest for DUI.
The City of Helena charged Schroeder with DUI in the Helena
Municipal Court. During Schroeder's bench trial, the City
presented Officer Barton's testimony and his in-car
video, which depicted Schroeder's driving behavior, the
traffic stop, and Officer Barton's conversation with
Schroeder. The trial testimony of Schroeder and two of his
coworkers with whom he had spent the evening indicated that
he had consumed three beers in the hours prior to his arrest.
At the close of the City's case-in-chief, Schroeder moved
to dismiss for insufficient evidence. The court denied his
motion, reasoning that Schroeder's refusal to submit to a
blood or breath test created a "presumption" of
intoxication that, combined with Schroeder's driving
behavior, his "glossy eyes, " "the odor of
alcoholic beverage, " and his "admission to
drinking, " established a prima facie case that he had
been driving under the influence. At the close of trial, the
court found Schroeder guilty of DUI.
Schroeder appealed his conviction to the First Judicial
District Court. He argued that the Municipal Court erred as a
matter of law by applying a "mandatory presumption"
of intoxication to his refusal to submit to testing, when
legally it should have applied only a "permissible
inference" of intoxication. The District Court affirmed
the conviction. It concluded that, although the Municipal
Court used the word "presumption" in its reasoning,
in substance it treated Schroeder's refusal to submit to
testing as a permissive rather than a "mandatory"
When reviewing a district court's ruling on the decision
of a municipal court, we examine the record independently of
the district court's decision, applying the appropriate
standards of review. City of Missoula v. Tye, 2016
MT 153, ¶ 8, 384 Mont. 24, 372 P.3d 1286. We review a
district court's conclusions of law to determine whether
they are correct. State v. Bonamarte, 2009 MT 243,
¶ 13, 351 Mont. 419, 213 P.3d 457. When reviewing
whether evidence is sufficient to support a criminal
conviction, this Court views the facts in a light most
favorable to the prosecution to determine whether any
rational trier of fact could have found the essential
elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. State v.
Hocevar, 2000 MT 157, ¶ 23, 300 Mont. 167, 7 P.3d
329. It remains the function of the trier of fact to
determine the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to
be given their testimony. State v. Hudson, 2005 MT
142, ¶ 22, 327 Mont. 286, 114 P.3d 210.
When a defendant charged with driving under the influence has
refused blood or breath testing, "[t]he trier of fact
may infer from the refusal that the person was under the
influence. The inference is rebuttable." Section
61-8-404(2), MCA. This statute creates a
"permissive" inference-meaning that the trier of
fact may "accept or reject the inference."
State v. Michaud, 2008 MT 88, ¶ 54, 342 Mont.
244, 180 P.3d 636. Under the Montana statutory rules of
evidence, "[a]n ...