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State v. Heidinger

Supreme Court of Montana

December 31, 2019

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
LINDA LOU HEIDINGER, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: December 4, 2019

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fifteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Roosevelt, Cause No. DC 2017-11 Honorable David Cybulski, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: John J. Ferguson, Ferguson Law Office, Missoula, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, J. Stuart Segrest, Chief, Civil Bureau, Helena, Montana Austin Knudsen, Roosevelt County Attorney, Wolf Point, Montana

          OPINION

          BETH BAKER, JUSTICE

         Â¶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 Linda Lou Heidinger appeals the imposition of a fine and several additional conditions of her sentence for negligent homicide. We affirm the fine, reverse the challenged conditions, and remand for entry of an amended judgment.

         ¶3 On January 10, 2017, Heidinger negligently passed a snowplow while driving herself and two coworkers home. She collided with an oncoming pickup truck, resulting in the death of one of her passengers. Heidinger was not under the influence of alcohol or any other substances on the day of the accident. The State charged Heidinger with Negligent Homicide by information on April 20, 2017. Heidinger later pleaded guilty in the Fifteenth Judicial District Court, Roosevelt County.

         ¶4 Heidinger's presentence investigation report ("PSI") reported in part that Heidinger had no prior criminal history or driving-related offenses; had a monthly income of $2, 400 and no listed assets or debts; last consumed alcohol in 2015; and had no history of alcohol or substance abuse or a gambling addiction. The PSI further concluded that Heidinger posed a minimal risk of reoffending.

         ¶5 After the District Court conducted a sentencing hearing, it imposed a twenty-year suspended sentence and a $50, 000 fine. The court also imposed 27 probation conditions. At issue here, condition numbers 9, 10, 17, 18, and 26 prohibit Heidinger from using or possessing alcohol and illegal drugs, gambling, or entering bars and casinos, and require her participation in a sobriety and drug monitoring program. Upon pronouncement of the sentence, the court and Heidinger's counsel engaged in the following exchange:

COURT: I'm going to fine her the $50, 000. . . . I don't have any heartburn taking money from her. . . . When I look at the probation conditions I know if you look at the standards that the Supreme Court sets down, if there has to be a nexus; I don't know that I can say she shouldn't enter bars or casinos. I don't know that I can do some of these other ones but I'm going to do them anyway and if she wants to appeal. Because my rationalization for staying out of the bars, staying out of the casino and some of those other things is that she has a fine to pay; a financial obligation and if she had money for the bars she has money to pay. So, Ms. Thornton you see [anything] in these probation conditions that are not appropriate that you want to argue about?
MS. THORNTON: Well I'm not quite sure about the fine thing but you're not imposing a fine on her?
COURT: Oh, I'm [imposing] a fine on her. . . . Otherwise on the probation and condition?
MS. THORNTON: Are you saying you didn't find a nexus between the no bars and ...

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