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State v. Steinhorst

Supreme Court of Montana

August 14, 2018

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
JUSTIN DANIEL STEINHORST, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: July 25, 2018

          District Court of the Eleventh Judicial District, In and For the County of Flathead, Cause No. DC 16-217(C) Honorable Heidi Ulbricht, Presiding Judge.

          For Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, Deborah S. Smith, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Katie F. Schulz, Helena, Montana

          Ed Corrigan, Flathead County Attorney, Renn C. Fairchild, Deputy County Attorney, Kalispell, Montana

          OPINION

          Laurie McKinnon, Justice.

         ¶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 Justin Daniel Steinhorst appeals from an order of the Eleventh Judicial District Court, Flathead County, affirming his conviction for criminal trespass. We affirm.

         ¶3 The State charged Steinhorst with criminal mischief and criminal trespass in Flathead County Justice Court based on a report Flathead County Sheriff's Office received. The report complained Steinhorst trespassed by sleeping in a storage closet at the La Quinta Inn and Suites (Hotel), using the Hotel's bedding, and urinating into an ice bucket. The officer investigating the report contacted Steinhorst and Steinhorst admitted to being on the Hotel's premises as a non-paying guest. The Justice Court held a bench trial. Steinhorst did not appear. The officer testified as the State's only witness. Steinhorst's counsel moved to dismiss the charges, arguing the State did not establish Steinhorst was not invited to sleep in the Hotel's storage closet. The Justice Court orally pronounced Steinhorst guilty of criminal trespass and dismissed the criminal mischief charge. The Justice Court's written judgment did not conform to its oral pronouncement, incorrectly indicating Steinhorst was guilty of criminal mischief and that the criminal trespass charge was dismissed.

         ¶4 The District Court affirmed Steinhorst's trespass conviction, concluding the evidence supported a finding Steinhorst was not invited to sleep in the Hotel's storage closet and stating, "A motel's utility closet is normally used for the private purposes of the motel and is not within the scope of a motel's business invitation to its intended customers." Further, the District Court commented Steinhorst's argument that he was invited to stay in the Hotel's closet "requires both that the motel deviated from its ordinary course of business by providing a utility closet as a room to an unpaying guest and that the motel ignored laws governing motel's sanitary facilities by allowing [Steinhorst] to use a bucket for his urine." The District Court noted the Justice Court could correct its factually incorrect written judgment under § 46-18-116, MCA, and concluded it was not an appellate issue.

         ¶5 On appeal, Steinhorst argues there was insufficient evidence to support his criminal trespass conviction. We review the sufficiency of evidence supporting a conviction by viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution and determining whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Stevens, 2002 MT 181, ¶ 23, 311 Mont. 52, 53 P.3d 356. We recognize criminal trespass to property as having three essential elements: (1) a person knowingly; (2) enters or remains unlawfully in; (3) an occupied structure or the premises of another. State v. Robertson, 2014 MT 279, ¶ 19, 376 Mont. 471, 336 P.3d 367; Section 45-6-203, MCA. Steinhorst argues the State failed to prove the second element- he was not invited to stay in the Hotel's storage closet. Steinhorst suggests the State should have presented testimony from the Hotel's owner or an authorized employee to establish he was not invited.

         ¶6 Instead of the testimony Steinhorst suggests, the Justice Court found Steinhorst guilty based on the fact that someone contacted the Flathead County Sheriff's Office complaining a trespasser was sleeping in the Hotel's storage closet, using its bedding, and urinating into an ice bucket. The State admitted a photograph of the closet, bedding, and bucket. The officer investigating the report testified he contacted Steinhorst and Steinhorst admitted he was the person the report complained of, but also suggested he was an invited, although non-paying, guest. Steinhorst's suggestion he was invited to stay in the hotel's closet as a non-paying guest is not credible because hotels do not commonly invite non-paying guests to stay in storage closets; storage closets are not commonly used to house invited guests; and hotels are obligated to provide sanitary facilities, they do not allow invited guests to urinate in food storage containers. Based on the evidence presented, a rational trier of fact could have concluded Steinhorst either entered or remained unlawfully because he was not invited to stay in the hotel's storage closet. Therefore, the District Court relied on sufficient evidence to support Steinhorst's criminal trespass conviction.

         ¶7 Steinhorst also urges this Court to remand this proceeding and instruct the Justice Court to conform its written order with its oral pronouncement. Remanding a proceeding with instructions to correct a sentence is an appropriate remedy where this Court determines the sentence imposed was illegal. See State v. Lambert, 2010 MT 287, ¶ 14, 359 Mont. 8, 248 P.3d 295. Here, however, Steinhorst does not argue his sentence was illegal, only that the written judgment was factually incorrect. "The court may correct a factually erroneous . . . judgment at any time." Section 46-18-116(3), MCA. The Justice Court may correct Steinhorst's factually incorrect written judgment without our needing to remand the proceeding.

         ¶8 We have determined to decide this case pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c) of our Internal Operating Rules, which provides for memorandum opinions. This appeal presents no constitutional issues, no issues of first impression, ...


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