State v. Running WolfAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part Appellant's designation as a persistent felony offender (PFO) and corresponding enhanced sentence, holding that Appellant was improperly sentenced as a PFO.
Because a fourth or subsequent driving under the influence (DUI) offense constitutes a felony under Montana law, the State charged Appellant's fourth and fifth DUI offenses, committed in 2015, as felonies. Before Appellant was convicted of either felony offense, the State gave notice of its intent to seek PFO designation for Appellant. In 2017, approximately two weeks after a new law took effect changing the definition of a PFO, Appellant pleaded guilty to both felony DUIs. Appellant argued that the 2015 PFO statute no longer applied and that he did not satisfy the requirements necessary to trigger PFO status under the new definition. The district court concluded that the 2015 PFO statute applied and designated Appellant a PFO. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the district court (1) properly applied the 2015 version of the PFO statute at Appellant's sentencing hearing; but (2) erred in sentencing Appellant as a PFO because Mont. Code Ann. 46-18-501 expressly requires the existence of a felony conviction before the commission of the principal offense to effectuate a valid PFO designation.