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State v. Favel

State v. Favel, 2015 MT 336 (Dec. 2, 2015) (McKinnon, J.; McKinnon, J., specially concurring) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the prosecution improperly commented on the statutory inference of intoxication under § 61-8-404(2) and asserted that Favel was responsible for establishing her innocence, thereby denying Favel her right to a fair and impartial trial.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Havre police officer Sgt. Poulos stopped a car and identified Favel as the driver. Favel’s eyes were red and glassy, she was slurring her speech, and the officer smelled alcohol on her breath. Favel failed standard field sobriety tests, and refused a breath test. Eventually Poulos obtained a search warrant for Favel’s blood, which revealed a BAC of .13 percent.

The state charged Favel with felony DUI, fourth or subsequent offense.…

State v. Williams

State v. Williams, 2015 MT 247 (Aug. 18, 2015) (Rice, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court committed plain error by failing to instruct the jury that state had to prove Williams acted with purpose to deprive; and (2) whether Williams’ counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to the erroneous jury instruction.

Short Answer: (1) The Court declines to review this issue for plain error; and (2) No.


Facts: TW’s parents died, leaving him an orphan at 13. His paternal uncle, Carl, had custody under TW’s father’s will, but as unable to care for TW. Carl deferred to his sister, Debra, who was TW’s guardian for almost a year until she was seriously injured in a car accident.…

State v. RSA

State v. RSA, 2015 MT 202 (July 21, 2015) (Cotter, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether RSA was subject to pretrial punishment in violation of his due process rights when the district court held a critical stage hearing at which RSA was not present; (2) whether sufficient evidence supports RSA’s conviction of felony robbery; and (3) whether the district court erred in ruling that RSA’s affirmative defense of justifiable use of force required RSA to testify at trial.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) yes; and (3) no.


Facts: RSA has a lengthy documented history of mental health issues, substantive abuse, and institutionalization. He has a juvenile record as well as an adult criminal history.

In September 2011, RSA stole a tool set from an Ace Hardware store.…

In the Matter of MKS

In the Matter of MKS, 2015 MT 146 (May 26, 2015) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether psychologist’s failure to file statutorily required written report in MKS’s civil commitment proceeding was plain error.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: MKS has been hospitalized numerous times for mental health illness. In November 2013, MKS stipulated to a 6-month community commitment. The order provided that MKS would remain at St. Pat’s Neurobehavioral Unit until she was stabilized, that she would keep all of he appointment and follow the recommendations of her treating professionals, and that she would take all of her medications, including injectable ones.

In January 2014, the state filed a “renewed” petition for commitment, stating police had taken MKS to the ER after she called the crisis line and said she was suicidal.…

State v. Carnes

State v. Carnes, 2015 MT 101 (April 14, 2015) (Rice, J.; McKinnon, J., dissenting) (5-2, rev’d)

Issue: Whether the district court erred by failing to instruct the jury that the state was required to prove mental state for every element of the offense.

Short Answer: Yes.

Reversed & remanded

Facts: After Carnes and his girlfriend had an argument, Carnes packed and left the house. While he was outside, two deputies arrived in response to a domestic disturbance call from the residence. They did not use emergency lights, and pursuant to standard procedure, parked on the street and approached with flashlights. They were dressed in uniform. Without identifying themselves, they asked Carnes to step back from a truck that was running.…