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State v. Eystad

Supreme Court of Montana

February 21, 2017

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
DEVIN J. EYSTAD, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: December 14, 2016

         District Court of the Eleventh Judicial District, In and For the County of Flathead, Cause No. DC-12-335 (D) Honorable David M. Ortley, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant Chad Wright, Chief Appellate Defender, James Reavis, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana

          For Appellee Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Micheal S. Wellenstein, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Ed Corrigan, Flathead County Attorney, Stacy Boman, Deputy County Attorney, Kalispell, Montana

          Mike McGrath Chief Justice

         ¶1 Devin Eystad appeals from the District Court's Opinion and Order of July 24, 2015, which affirmed the Order of the Flathead County Justice Court dated August 1, 2012. The Justice Court's order denied Eystad's motion to dismiss the criminal charges against him based upon denial of a speedy trial. We affirm.

         ¶2 We restate the issue on appeal as follows:

         Did the Justice Court properly deny Eystad's motion to dismiss the criminal charges against him based upon violation of his right to a speedy trial?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 On February 13, 2009, the State charged Eystad with motor vehicle offenses (driving with a suspended license, driving without a license plate) and served him with a complaint and notice to appear. The complaint required him to appear before the Flathead County Justice Court on or before February 27, 2009, for an initial appearance and arraignment. Eystad failed to appear and the Justice Court sent him a notice requiring him to appear on March 27, 2009, for an initial appearance and arraignment. That notice also warned him that failure to appear would result in suspension of his driver's license. Eystad again failed to appear. On April 13, 2009, the Justice Court suspended his license, and on May 21, 2009, it issued a warrant for Eystad's arrest for failing to appear.

         ¶4 On April 13, 2012, Eystad was arrested on the warrant from May 2009. He made an initial appearance in Justice Court on April 16, 2012, and pled not guilty. The Justice Court set trial for August 23, 2012. At the June 12, 2012 omnibus hearing in Justice Court, Eystad moved to dismiss the charges against him for lack of a speedy trial. The Justice Court held a hearing on the motion on July 30, 2012, and Eystad testified.

         ¶5 The Justice Court's post-hearing order concluded that "Eystad acquiesced in the great majority of the delay period" between the original charges in 2009 and his arrest in 2012. The Justice Court found that Eystad ignored all notices and orders requiring him to appear, and that his appearance in April 2012 was "involuntary, " resulting from arrest. The Justice Court found that the record demonstrated that Eystad "placed a very low value and priority on obtaining a speedy trial in this matter." In addition, Eystad was subjected to "virtually no pretrial incarceration" and the subject traffic offenses "are not particularly complex in nature."

         ¶6 The Justice Court found that Eystad presented no evidence that the delay in bringing him to trial disrupted his life in any way. To the contrary, "it appears that Eystad has been largely able to go about his life since February 2009 with only the minimal intrusion of his arrest in 2012 to be brought before the Court for arraignment." The Justice Court found that Eystad presented no evidence of community scorn or of damage to his reputation; no evidence of economic hardship; and no evidence of an adverse impact upon his ability to defend against the original charges.

         ¶7 The Justice Court concluded that while there was a lengthy delay (1288 days) between the initial charges and the trial date, the reasons for the delay "do not weigh heavily against the State, nor do they work to the substantial prejudice of Eystad." The Justice Court found that there was no evidence of bad faith by the State to gain a tactical advantage, and that Eystad "shares responsibility with the State" for ninety percent of the delay period. The Justice Court concluded that Eystad's ability to defend against the charges had not been prejudiced; there was no oppressive pretrial incarceration; his life was not disrupted; and his standing in the ...


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