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State v. Charles

Supreme Court of Montana

December 24, 2019

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
SHANNON MARIE CHARLES, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: December 4, 2019

          District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DC 99-13643 Honorable John W. Larson, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Martin W. Judnich, Judnich Law Office, Missoula, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Michael P. Dougherty, Roy Brown, Assistant Attorneys General, Helena, Montana

          Kirsten Pabst, Missoula County Attorney, Jennifer Clark, Deputy County Attorney, Missoula, Montana



         ¶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 Shannon Charles (Charles) appeals from the Order on Motion to Clarify Defendant's Restitution issued January 25, 2019, by the Fourth Judicial District Court, Missoula County. We reverse and remand for imposition of the Order Amending Judgment issued by the District Court on June 26, 2017.

         ¶3 Pursuant to a written plea agreement, Charles pled guilty to Theft, Attempted Theft, and Burglary in 1999. She was sentenced on October 8, 1999. At sentencing, Charles was ordered to pay $98, 365.63 in restitution, along with interest at the rate of 10%. Pursuant to a stipulation following issuance of the written judgment, the interest rate was amended to 7.5%. On March 6, 2002, Charles petitioned, due to financial hardship, for modification of the restitution. Following hearing, the District Court amended the interest rate to 7%. Thereafter, Charles diligently made payments on the restitution ordered.

         ¶4 Over 12 years later, on December 5, 2014, Charles filed a Petition for Modification of Restitution-requesting a waiver of interest on the restitution amount-which was denied. Two years later, on February 16, 2017, Charles's probation officer filed a letter with the District Court advising Charles had paid a total of $103, 525.82 in restitution to date, noting she had done so on a waitress's salary and with family help despite being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015; undergoing bilateral mastectomies and reconstructive surgery in 2015 and a hysterectomy in 2017; and her father, who had helped her financially, being diagnosed with cancer. Charles's probation officer reported her adjustment to supervision had been exceptional and suggested waiver of the remainder of restitution, interest, and fees was appropriate based upon her ability to pay and considerable previous payments. Thereafter, on April 27, 2017, Charles filed an Unopposed Motion to Amend the Amended Judgment, requesting the District Court recalculate interest based upon the payments she had made as well as clarify that the calculation of interest from the base restitution be "simple" interest (citing § 25-9-205(1), MCA, prohibiting compound interest), finalize a new restitution figure of $11, 161.98, and waive any remaining interest. Charles asserted the Department of Corrections Restitution Department (DOC) had at various times attempted to compound interest in violation of § 25-9-205, MCA, and confuse the final figures as to what was actually owed. On April 28, 2017, the District Court amended the Amended Judgment and ordered that Charles owed a total of $11, 161.98 in remaining restitution and that interest upon the $11, 161.98 balance be waived.

         ¶5 In June 2017, the District Court received an ex parte email from the DOC seeking clarification of the waiver of interest. Based upon this email, the District Court ordered the State and Charles to file responses, or in the alternative, prepare an order clarifying the issue. The parties consulted and on June 23, 2017, Charles filed a Second Unopposed Motion to Amend Judgment. Charles asserted a correction in the remaining restitution balance based on DOC-verified information. After crediting additional restitution payments that had been made, the corrected restitution balance was $103, 925.82, with the original balance including interest being $106, 371.61, resulting in a to-pay balance on restitution of $4, 473.18, and again sought waiver of further interest and fees. The parties then stipulated to an order clarifying the issue and providing for the relief Charles sought. The District Court signed the presented order granting the relief Charles sought on June 26, 2017.

         ¶6 The June 26, 2017 Order Amending Judgment amended judgment to reflect that:

• [T]he Defendant has paid a total of $103, 925.82 of the $106, 371.61 ordered ...

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