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State v. Reynolds

Supreme Court of Montana

December 28, 2017

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
MURRY KIM REYNOLDS, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: August 23, 2017

         District Court of the Twenty-First Judicial District, In and For the County of Ravalli, Cause No. DC 20 14-279 Honorable James A. Haynes, Presiding Judge

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

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Tammy A. Hinderman; Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana, William E. Fulbright, Ravalli County Attorney, Angela Wetzsteon, Deputy County Attorney, Hamilton, Montana

          MICHAEL E WHEAT, JUSTICE.

         ¶1 Murry Kim Reynolds (Reynolds) was convicted of felony Driving While Under the Influence of Alcohol, fourth or subsequent offense (DUI), and two misdemeanors: Failure To Have Liability Insurance In Effect and Failure To Drive On The Right Side Of The Roadway. He does not challenge his convictions on appeal; however, he appeals from the June 21, 2016 Judgment in which the District Court imposed fines, surcharges, prosecution costs, public defender costs, and court technology fees. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

         ¶2 We restate the issues on appeal as follows:

Issue One: Did the District Court err by failing to adequately determine Reynolds's ability to pay before imposing fines, surcharges, prosecution costs, and public defender fees?
Issue Two: Did the District Court err by imposing statutory surcharges and court user fees?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 On November 19, 2014, Reynolds was charged by Information in Ravalli County with felony DUI and two misdemeanors: Failure To Have Liability Insurance In Effect and Failure To Drive On The Right Side Of The Roadway. On March 5, 2015, Reynolds and the State entered into a plea agreement, in which the State agreed to drop the misdemeanors and Reynolds would plead guilty to the felony. The court ordered a presentence investigation (PSI) report, which was filed on June 18, 2015. The PSI report specifically addressed the felony charge and made recommendations for sentencing and imposition of fees. The PSI report also discussed Reynolds's financial situation.

         ¶4 Specifically, the PSI reported that: (1) Reynolds had been employed part-time at Caras Property Management earning approximately $1, 500 per month; (2) his assets were $3, 000 and his debts were $5, 000; (3) his wife was employed part-time earning approximately $700 per month; (4) he paid $500 in rent monthly; (5) he owned two vehicles valued at $5, 500 and tools valued at $3, 000, and outstanding loans on the vehicles totaled $5, 000. The PSI also reported that Reynolds planned to be semi-retired and to expand his welding into a part-time business, and that he was in "fair" health, but had kidney stones and was on medication for high blood pressure. The PSI report concluded Reynolds had the ability to pay the fines and fees associated with the felony DUI, including an $800 public defender fee.[1] Reynolds requested the court to "be as lenient as possible" due to his record, age, and health.

         ¶5 Prior to sentencing, Reynolds filed an unopposed motion to withdraw his guilty plea, which the District Court granted. A jury trial was held on May 9-10, 2016, on all three charges. At trial, Reynolds testified he was retired, but that prior to retirement he was employed as a maintenance man at a local rental agency and a welder. Reynolds testified his past jobs were "tough work, " resulting in numerous physical injuries and ailments, which prevented him from doing too much physical work. He testified he had been diagnosed with PTSD and had been on medication for the condition for the past eight years. The jury found Reynolds guilty on all three charges.

         ¶6 At the May 19, 2016 sentencing hearing, the District Court commented that the Montana Supreme Court had recently handed down a new case requiring him, as the judge, to have detailed findings regarding the defendant's ability to pay for any fines, fees, or costs it imposed. The District Court then delayed sentencing, as it did not have the actual fees incurred by the public defender's office for Reynolds's defense or Reynolds's current employment status, prospects, or financial situation. The court required Reynolds to produce his tax returns; a full financial statement, including holdings; his wife's finances; and property, real or otherwise. In response to the District Court order, Reynolds produced his 2015 joint income tax return, which showed a total income of $19, 144. The bank statements showed deposits totaling $1, 830.54 for April 2016 and $1, 766.83 for May 2016. Both totals for the month include a $1, 090 social security deposit.

         ¶7 At the June 2, 2016 sentencing hearing, Reynolds's public defender filed notice stating he had incurred $5, 829 in fees while representing Reynolds. During the hearing Reynolds testified that (1) he was not currently employed; (2) his only income was social security benefits; (3) he planned to work "on the side" as a welder but lost his driver's license due to his DUIs; (4) he paid $500 per month in rent; (5) he had two vehicles, each with an outstanding loan-$1, 000 on his Chevy and $1, 800 on his wife's Buick-with monthly payments of $100 on each vehicle; and (6) he had no other debts. Reynolds opined that he would lose his social security benefits during incarceration, which would hurt his family financially.

         ¶8 The District Court then directly questioned Reynolds regarding ...


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