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State v. Flowers

Supreme Court of Montana

April 24, 2018

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
PATRICK TERRY FLOWERS, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: February 14, 2018

          District Court of the Twenty-First Judicial District, In and For the County of Ravalli, Cause No. DC 15-01 Honorable Jeffrey H. Langton, Presiding Judge.

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

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Ryan Aikin, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana

          William E. Fulbright, Ravalli County Attorney, Hamilton, Montana

          OPINION

          Beth Baker, Justice.

         ¶1 A Ravalli County jury convicted Patrick Terry Flowers of criminal possession of methamphetamine, criminal possession of marijuana, and two counts of criminal possession of drug paraphernalia after law enforcement found drugs and paraphernalia in his pickup truck during a traffic stop. Leslie Hill was the lone passenger in the vehicle at the time of the traffic stop. Flowers appeals his convictions, alleging that the District Court committed reversible error when it excluded evidence of Hill's plea agreement and curtailed his cross-examination of Hill. Flowers also claims his attorney was ineffective because he failed to request a jury instruction on accomplice testimony. We agree with Flowers that he was improperly denied the opportunity to impeach Hill. We therefore remand the case for a new trial.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         ¶2 During routine patrol near Stevensville, Montana, in December 2014, Deputy Jason Jones of the Ravalli County Sheriff's Office stopped a pickup that had an expired registration. Flowers was driving the vehicle and Hill sat in the front passenger seat. Deputy Jones asked for Flowers's driver's license and other documentation. After checking for active warrants for both Flowers and Hill, Deputy Jones informed Flowers that he was issuing him a warning for the expired tags. He asked Flowers to exit his pickup to show him the expired registration tags on the vehicle.

         ¶3 Once Flowers exited the vehicle, Deputy Jones returned Flowers's driver's license and documentation and told Flowers that he was free to go, but asked for consent to search the vehicle. Flowers consented and signed a consent form. Hill remained alone in the cab of the pickup during this interaction, but eventually got out and stood by a law enforcement vehicle during the search. Trooper Rocky Bailey and Sergeant Jesse Jessop were present for backup during the search. Before the search began, Flowers asked to get a sweatshirt from the back seat of the pickup. As Flowers retrieved the sweatshirt, a glass pipe fell out of the pickup cab onto the ground.

         ¶4 Deputy Jones recognized the pipe as the type of pipe used to smoke methamphetamine and placed Flowers under arrest. Laboratory tests later confirmed that the pipe had methamphetamine residue on it. After giving Flowers a Miranda warning, Deputy Jones asked Flowers who owned the pipe. Flowers replied that he did not know. When Deputy Jones asked whether the pipe belonged to Hill, Flowers stated that he did not think so.

         ¶5 While searching the truck, Deputy Jones found a plastic box containing a marijuana pipe and a bag with 6.65 grams of marijuana under the driver's seat. He also found a plastic container containing marijuana residue in the backseat. Hill consented to Deputy Jones's request to search her purse. Inside, he found a small glass vial with a white powdery substance in it, which laboratory tests later confirmed as methamphetamine.

         ¶6 Deputy Jones, Trooper Bailey, and Sergeant Jessop all testified that Flowers did not appear to be intoxicated during the stop, but that Hill appeared to be under the influence of methamphetamine or another drug because she was twitching and had jerky movements. Both Flowers and Hill were charged with criminal possession of methamphetamine, criminal possession of marijuana, and two counts of criminal possession of drug paraphernalia.

         ¶7 At the time of the December 2014 traffic stop, Hill already was facing serious drug charges from an incident in August 2014, including two charges of criminal possession of dangerous drugs with intent to distribute and criminal possession of drug paraphernalia. Hill's charges from the two incidents, along with the persistent felony offender ("PFO") status the State sought, carried a combined maximum penalty of 147 years of incarceration. Before Flowers's trial, Hill reached a plea agreement with the State to resolve all of her pending charges. The State agreed to amend her August 2014 charges to two charges of criminal possession of dangerous drugs and to dismiss the notice of intent to seek PFO status. Hill pleaded guilty to the two amended charges and to all the charges arising from the December 2014 traffic stop with Flowers. The State agreed to recommend that the court sentence Hill to five years for the August charges and an additional two years ...


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