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State v. Reger

Supreme Court of Montana

June 5, 2018

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
DANIEL JAMES REGER, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: May 2, 2018

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Gallatin, Cause No. DC 16-172C Honorable John C. Brown, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Matthew A. Dodd, Dodd Law Firm, P.C., Bozeman, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, C. Mark Fowler, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana

          Marty Lambert, Gallatin County Attorney, Bjorn E. Boyer, Deputy County Attorney, Bozeman, Montana

          OPINION

          LAURIE MCKINNON JUSTICE

         ¶1 The State charged Daniel James Reger (Reger) with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) in the Gallatin County Justice Court. Reger moved to dismiss the State's case arguing there was insufficient probable cause for his arrest. At a hearing, the Justice Court orally granted Reger's motion to dismiss and issued a written order fourteen days thereafter. Following the Justice Court's oral order dismissing the State's case, but prior to its issuance of the written order, the State appealed to the Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin County. Reger filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing the State's appeal was premature. The District Court concluded the State's appeal was not premature; that it had subject matter jurisdiction; and that there was sufficient probable cause to arrest Reger. A jury convicted Reger of DUI. Reger appeals from the District Court's order denying his motion to dismiss in which he argued the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. We affirm.

         ¶2 Reger presents the following issue for review:

         Did the District Court err in concluding the State's appeal was not premature and that it had subject matter jurisdiction over the proceeding?

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 In September 2015, a Gallatin County Sheriff's Deputy initiated a traffic stop after seeing Reger driving his vehicle at approximately seventy-three miles-per-hour in an area with a speed limit of forty-five miles-per-hour. The Deputy smelled alcohol emanating from Reger's vehicle, saw that his eyes were bloodshot and glassy, and heard him slur his words. Reger admitted he consumed alcohol prior to driving. The Deputy arrested Reger. Reger provided a breath sample on an Intoxilyzer 8000 that registered an alcohol content of 0.109. The State charged Reger with DUI in Gallatin County Justice Court.[1]

¶4 Reger filed a motion to dismiss the Justice Court proceeding, arguing the Deputy lacked probable cause to arrest Reger. At a hearing on May 6, 2016, the Justice Court granted Reger's motion orally from the bench, concluding the Deputy lacked probable cause to arrest him. Five days later, on May 11, 2016, the State filed a notice of appeal to District Court, appealing the "order granting dismissal of the State's case entered in this action on the 6th day of May, 2016." On May 20, 2016, nine days after the State filed its notice of appeal, the Justice Court entered its written findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order memorializing its May 6 oral order in which it granted Reger's motion to dismiss.

         ¶5 The District Court assumed jurisdiction. Reger filed a motion to dismiss the District Court proceeding, arguing the District Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the State filed its notice of appeal prematurely or before the Justice Court entered its written findings, conclusions, and order. The State responded, arguing that its appeal was timely because it can appeal from an order dismissing a case once it is issued orally from the bench. The District Court denied Reger's motion to dismiss the District Court proceeding, concluding the State's appeal was timely. A jury convicted Reger of DUI. Reger appeals the District Court's denial of his motion to dismiss in which he argued the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.

         STANDARD ...


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