Submitted on Briefs: July 10, 2019
District Court of the Second Judicial District, In and For
the County of Butte-Silver Bow, Cause No. DC-17-46 Honorable
Kurt Krueger, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, Michael
Marchesini, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Mardell
Ployhar, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Eileen
Joyce, Butte-Silver Bow County Attorney, Kelli J. Fivey,
Deputy County Attorney, Butte, Montana
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
Clinton Sproles appeals his designation and sentence as a
Persistent Felony Offender (PFO) by the Second Judicial
District Court, Butte-Silver Bow County. We affirm.
On February 25, 2017, Sproles was arrested for driving under
the influence (DUI) and the State charged him with felony DUI
pursuant to § 61-8-401, MCA. At the time he was charged,
Sproles had a total of twenty prior DUI convictions spanning
from 1980 to 2008. At an April 6, 2017 arraignment, Sproles
pleaded guilty to felony DUI. That same day, the State filed
a notice of its intent to have Sproles designated as a PFO,
based on his 2008 felony DUI conviction. Sproles filed a
motion to strike the State's PFO notice as untimely. He
additionally argued that if the court applied a PFO
enhancement, he was entitled to sentencing under the 2017
ameliorative amendment to the statutory PFO definition,
instead of the more severe 2015 definition. The District
Court denied both arguments and on December 21, 2017, the
court designated Sproles as a PFO and sentenced him to
twenty-five years in prison, with no time suspended, to run
consecutively to the seventeen years remaining from his prior
2008 DUI conviction. Sproles appeals.
This Court reviews a criminal sentence imposing over one year
of incarceration for legality. State v. Moore, 2012
MT 95, ¶ 10, 365 Mont. 13, 277 P.3d 1212. The District
Court's designation of Sproles as a PFO is a question of
law that we review for correctness. State v. Thomas,
2019 MT 155, ¶ 5, 396 Mont. 284, ___P.3d ___.
Sproles maintains that the District Court erred when it
sentenced him under § 46-18-501, MCA (2015), instead of
the revised 2017 PFO statutory scheme, because he was legally
entitled to benefit from the ameliorative changes to the PFO
definition. Section 46-18-501, MCA (2015), defined PFO as an
offender that had one prior felony conviction within five
years of the commission of the present offense or had been
released from a commitment imposed for the prior felony
conviction within the last five years. Thomas,
¶ 3. However, around the time of Sproles' 2017 DUI
arrest, the 2017 Montana Legislature passed HB 133, which
altered the definition of PFO. Thomas, ¶ 3. The
new definition requires two predicate felony convictions
before the State may seek a PFO designation. Further, one of
the three prior felonies must be a sexual or violent offense
before the State can request the sentencing enhancement.
Thomas, ¶ 3; § 46-1-202(18), MCA (2017).
Sproles' criminal history does not fit within the revised
PFO definition considering none of his prior felonies fall
within the statutory definition of sexual or violent
offenses. Accordingly, Sproles contends that because the 2017
change was passed prior to his sentencing, the District Court
erred in applying the allegedly outdated PFO definition.
This issue was recently addressed in Thomas. In
Thomas, this Court upheld a PFO sentence under the
2015 statute even though the sentencing took place after the
enactment of the 2017 amendment, based on the maxim that
"prior law remains effective for prior offenses."
Thomas, ¶ 10. Thomas clarified that
the plain language of HB 133 "unquestionably provide[s]
that the revisions enacted by the Act [do] not apply to
offenses committed prior to July 1, 2017."
Thomas, ¶ 9; 2017 Mont. Laws ch. 321,
§§ 43-44. Sproles' DUI arrest occurred on
February 25, 2017, approximately four months before the July
1, 2017 deadline. Therefore, the court properly sentenced
Sproles under § 46-18-501, MCA (2015), and the
ameliorative 2017 amendment did not apply.
The District Court did not err in designating Sproles as a
PFO pursuant to § 46-18-501, MCA (2015).
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, ...