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City of Missoula v. Franklin

Supreme Court of Montana

September 11, 2018

CITY OF MISSOULA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
CORINNE M. FRANKLIN, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: August 1, 2018

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DC 15-657 Honorable Leslie Halligan, Presiding Judge.

          For Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, James Reavis, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana.

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

          Jim Nugent, Missoula City Attorney, Gary Henricks, Deputy City Attorney, Missoula, Montana.

          OPINION

          BETH BAKER JUSTICE.

         ¶1 Pursuant to a local resolution, the Missoula Municipal Court charged Corinne Marie Louise Franklin a twenty-five-dollar surcharge to fund the City Attorney's Office after she pleaded no contest to Disorderly Conduct. Franklin moved to strike the surcharge, arguing that the City of Missoula did not have the statutory authority to include it in her sentence. The Municipal Court denied the motion, and the Fourth Judicial District Court affirmed the Municipal Court's order. We reverse and remand with instructions to strike the illegal portion of the sentence.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         ¶2 In September 2015, Franklin appeared in Missoula Municipal Court and entered a plea of nolo contendere to the charge of Disorderly Conduct, a misdemeanor, in violation of § 45-8-101, MCA. The Municipal Court deferred imposition of sentence for a period of twelve months, charged Franklin a fine of $100, charged Franklin the cost of prosecution in the amount of $50, and charged Franklin various additional surcharges totaling $110.

         ¶3 Included in the $110 fee were the following charges: (1) a fifteen-dollar surcharge under § 46-18-236(1)(a), MCA, to pay for the salary of the city attorney and deputies; (2) a fifty-dollar surcharge under § 46-18-236(1)(c), MCA, to pay for a victim and witness advocate program; (3) a ten-dollar surcharge under § 3-1-317(1)(a), MCA, to pay for court information technology; (4) a ten-dollar surcharge under § 3-1-318(1), MCA, to pay for the Montana Law Enforcement Academy; and (5) a twenty-five-dollar surcharge under Missoula Resolution 7784 to fund the City Attorney's Office.

         ¶4 Missoula Resolution 7784 was adopted because the Missoula City Council established that the current statutory surcharges did not adequately fund the office of the City Attorney. The Missoula City Council believed that individuals who commit criminal or traffic violations should contribute an amount to the City Attorney's Office greater than § 46-18-236(1)(a), MCA provides. The additional surcharge is assessed as part of the disposition of all citations and complaints, whether under state law or city ordinance, for which there was a conviction or a plea of guilty entered.

         ¶5 Franklin filed a motion to strike the twenty-five-dollar surcharge, arguing that it was not authorized by statute as a criminal sentence surcharge or cost; thus, the Municipal Court had no authority to include it in a criminal sentence. The Municipal Court denied the motion to strike, concluding that the surcharge was a non-punitive administrative fee and not a sentence. The Fourth Judicial District Court affirmed the Municipal Court's decision, holding that self-governing municipalities have authority to impose special assessments related to the cost of a special benefit provided by the municipality, and that the surcharge was imposed to support the City Attorney's Office's "efforts to increase the safety of the community." Franklin appeals, arguing that the Municipal Court has no statutory authority to impose a local surcharge as part of sentencing for a state law violation.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶6 A sentencing court's authority in criminal cases "is defined and constrained by statute." State v. Blackwell, 2001 MT 198, ¶ 6, 306 Mont. 267, 32 P.3d 771 (quoting State v. Nelson, 1998 MT 227, ¶ 24, 291 Mont. 15, 966 P.2d 133). Within the authority granted by statute, trial judges are granted broad discretion to determine the appropriate punishment for offenses. State v. Webb, 2005 MT 5, ¶ 8, 325 Mont. 317, 106 P.3d 521. With two narrow exceptions, not applicable here, our ...


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