Submitted on Briefs: April 17, 2019
FROM: District Court of the Thirteenth Judicial District, In
and For the County of Yellowstone, Cause No. DC 15-438
Honorable Rod Souza, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, Danny Tenenbaum,
Assistant Appellate Defender
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Roy
Brown, Assistant Attorney General
D. Twito, Yellowstone County Attorney, Morgan E. Shaw, Deputy
Baker, Justice delivered the Opinion of the Court.
David Kurtz appeals the Thirteenth Judicial District
Court's order denying his motion to dismiss for violation
of his right to a speedy trial. Kurtz argues that applying
this Court's established speedy trial standards, the
422-day delay in resolving his felony driving under the
influence charge violated his constitutional rights. We
reverse and remand for dismissal of Kurtz's charge.
AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
A Montana Highway Patrol trooper arrested Kurtz in
Yellowstone County on May 3, 2015, and the State charged him
with felony driving under the influence of alcohol and
misdemeanor driving while license suspended. Kurtz pleaded
not guilty. The District Court set bond at $20, 000, which
Kurtz was unable to post. The District Court initially
scheduled trial for August 17, 2015. Kurtz filed a motion to
suppress on July 22, 2015, contesting the legality of the
traffic stop. One week later, the State moved to postpone the
trial because the results from the crime lab had not yet been
received. Kurtz did not oppose this motion; he agreed the
trial should be postponed pending the toxicology results. The
court vacated the August trial date and set the trial for
September 21, 2015.
The District Court held a hearing on Kurtz's motion to
suppress on August 31, 2015, and denied the motion in late
November. On December 14, 2015, the court reset the trial for
January 4, 2016, noting that the September trial date had
"passed with no resolution." Four days later,
Kurtz's counsel e-mailed the District Court's
judicial assistant requesting the court "not call a jury
for January 4, 2016." The judicial assistant replied
that if there is not going to be a trial, Kurtz would have to
file a motion to continue with a waiver.
On December 21, 2015, Kurtz filed a status report requesting
that the District Court vacate the January 4 trial and set a
change of plea hearing. No hearing was set. The January trial
date passed. On April 12, 2016, the State requested the court
to reset the trial. The following day, the court set a new
trial date for May 23, 2016. Kurtz filed a motion to dismiss
on May 11, 2016, alleging that his right to a speedy trial
was violated. The May trial date passed. The District Court
held a hearing on Kurtz's motion to dismiss on June 1,
2016, and denied it three weeks later. The court found that
the length of delay and reasons for the delay weighed in
favor of finding a speedy trial violation but concluded that
Kurtz's response to the delay and the prejudice to Kurtz
did not weigh in Kurtz's favor. The court determined
that, on balance and because Kurtz's defense was not
impaired, Kurtz was not denied a speedy trial.
Kurtz entered a change of plea with the District Court four
days later. Kurtz pleaded guilty to felony driving under the
influence of alcohol and waived his right to a presentence
investigation. On the State's motion, the court dismissed
the misdemeanor charge. It sentenced Kurtz to the maximum,
thirteen-month commitment with the Department of Corrections,
followed by a five-year suspended sentence. Because
Kurtz's pretrial incarceration was twenty-six days longer
than his thirteen-month sentence of imprisonment, Kurtz was
released immediately and awarded a $2, 470 credit against the
$5, 000 fine imposed.
On appeal of a speedy trial ruling, we review a district
court's factual findings for clear error. State v.
Ariegwe, 2007 MT 204, ¶ 119, 338 Mont. 442, 167
P.3d 815. The trial court's findings are "clearly
erroneous if they are not supported by substantial credible
evidence, if the court has misapprehended the effect of the
evidence, or if a review of the record leaves this Court with
a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
made." Ariegwe, ¶ 119. Whether the factual
circumstances establish a speedy trial violation is a
question of constitutional law that we review de novo.
Ariegwe, ¶ 119.
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and
Article II, Section 24, of the Montana Constitution both
guarantee a criminal defendant the right to a speedy trial.
If the delay between accusation and trial exceeds 200 days,
this Court must examine speedy trial violations under the
Ariegwe four-factor test. Ariegwe, ¶
41. The test balances: (1) the length of delay; (2) the
reasons for the delay; (3) the accused's response to the
delay; and (4) the prejudice to the accused.
Ariegwe, ¶ 34. "No one factor is
dispositive by itself; rather, the factors are related and
must be considered together with such other circumstances as
may be relevant." Ariegwe, ¶ 112.
One: The ...