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State v. Moffett

Supreme Court of Montana

April 3, 2018

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
DAVID WAYNE MOFFETT, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: March 7, 2018

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Third Judicial District, In and For the County of Granite, Cause No. DC 15-04 Honorable Ray J. Dayton, Presiding Judge.

          For Appellant: Paul D. Sullivan, Measure, Sampsel, Sullivan & O'Brien, P.C., Kalispell, Montana.

         For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Mardell Ployhar, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Blaine Cooper Bradshaw, Granite County Attorney, Ben Krakowka, Special Deputy County Attorney, Philipsburg, Montana.



         ¶1 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 Montana Reports.

         ¶2 David Wayne Moffett (Moffett) appeals from the April 13, 2016 order denying his motion to dismiss for presentence delay, and the resulting April 18, 2016 sentence imposed by the Third Judicial District Court. We affirm.

         ¶3 On May 27, 2015, Moffett signed a Pre-Trial Agreement and agreed to plead guilty to the felony charge of Assault with a Weapon, in violation of § 45-5-213, MCA. The District Court held a change-of-plea hearing, found Moffett guilty based on his admission, and ordered a Pre-Sentence Investigation Report (PSI Report). The District Court issued its written order for the PSI Report on June 1, 2015.

         ¶4 On March 7, 2016, the PSI Report was filed with the District Court―285 days after the court ordered it, and with no explanation for the delay. The court set a sentencing hearing for March 23, 2016, but Moffett requested a continuance due to his attorney's scheduling conflict. Moffett also informed the District Court he intended to file a motion to dismiss his case. The District Court continued the hearing to April 13, 2016―322 days after Moffett's guilty plea.

         ¶5 On March 25, 2016, Moffett filed a motion to dismiss, based on the delay between the change-of-plea hearing and the sentencing. The District Court set a hearing on the motion for April 13, 2016, and heard arguments and orally denied the motion prior to the sentencing. During the sentencing portion of the hearing, Susan Carroll, Probation and Parole Officer for the Department of Corrections, testified Moffett paid $300 per month out-of-pocket―a total of $3, 000―for an alcohol-monitoring bracelet, and she recommended the court consider crediting Moffett for the expense against any fines imposed. After the April 13, 2016, hearing, the District Court issued written orders, denying the motion to dismiss and sentencing Moffett to a three-year deferred sentence in accordance with the plea agreement. The District Court did not impose a fine. This appeal followed.

         ¶6 We review a district court's denial of a motion to dismiss in a criminal case de novo for correctness. State v. Betterman, 2015 MT 39, ¶ 11, 378 Mont. 182, 342 P.3d 971 (aff'd __U.S.__, 136 S.Ct. 1609 (2016)).

         ¶7 Moffett argues the State's delay in providing the PSI Report violated his due process rights. Moffett argues he was prejudiced by the sentencing delay caused by the long wait for the PSI Report, amounting to 301 days if the three-week delay caused by his attorney's scheduling conflict is counted against him. Moffett alleges he suffered prejudice because the District Court required him to participate in the "24/7 sobriety program" while he awaited sentencing, and as part of the program, he had to wear an alcohol-monitoring bracelet at his own expense for the duration of the delay.

         ¶8 The State points to the District Court order, where the court acknowledged the delay between the plea and sentencing was "unacceptable, " but further found the only prejudice Moffett articulated was the expense of the alcohol-monitoring bracelet. The State argues the District Court correctly concluded this was insufficient to establish an oppressive sentencing delay under Betterman. The State maintains the alcohol-monitoring bracelet "motivated [Moffett] to maintain sobriety and demonstrated to the court that he had done so, which benefited him when he was sentenced."

         ¶9 Under Betterman, we determine whether a sentencing delay is oppressive and thus violates due process by balancing two factors: the reasons for the delay and whether the delay was oppressive. Betterman, ΒΆ 32 ("Though the reasons for a delay may be less than purposeful, or the prejudice caused by the delay less than oppressive, there may still be a constitutional violation when these two considerations are balanced against one ...

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