State v. Haller, 2013 MT 199 (July 23, 2013) (5-0) (McGrath, C.J.)
Issue: Whether the district court properly denied Haller’s motion to vacate his previous DUI convictions.
Short Answer: Yes.
Facts: Haller was arrested in August 2011 in suspicion of DUI. The next day the state submitted a complaint and affidavit of probable cause to the justice court, which found probable cause and allowed the complaint to be filed. Haller made his initial appearance that day, at which he was informed of the charges against him as well as his right to counsel and right to bail. The justice court set a preliminary hearing for August 18, 2011, but for reasons that are not clear from the record, the hearing was not held.
Nineteen days after Haller’s initial appearance, the state sought leave to file an information, supported by an affidavit of probable cause. The court granted the motion, and the state filed its information charging Haller with his fourth offense of DUI, a felony, and driving without a valid driver’s license. A jury found Haller guilty of both charges in February 2012.
Procedural Posture & Holding: In April 2012, Haller moved to vacate his convictions, arguing he had not received an adversarial probable cause hearing within 48 hours of his arrest, or that his convictions should be vacated because the state failed to present any evidence at the scheduled preliminary examination on Aug. 18, 2011. The district court denied the motion, held a sentencing hearing, and issued a written judgment. Haller appeals, and the Supreme Court affirms.
Reasoning: The state can obtain the requisite probable cause determination before filing charges in district court one of three ways: (1) preliminary examination; (2) direct leave for leave to file an information; or (3) grand jury indictment. A defendant is not entitled to any specific procedure. Haller argues because he did not have a preliminary examination within 48 hours of his arrest, the state had to prove that the time it took for him to receive a probable cause determination was reasonable. This argument conflates two separate procedures and is contrary to Montana’s established criminal procedure. Any argument that the 19-day delay between Haller’s initial appearance and the district court’s grant of leave to file an information was unreasonable was waived, as Haller did not raise it before trial.