Submitted on Briefs: August 1, 2018
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.
Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, James Reavis,
Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana.
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Ryan
Aikin, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana.
Nugent, Missoula City Attorney, Gary Henricks, Deputy City
Attorney, Missoula, Montana.
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.
AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
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.
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
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
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.
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