State v. Crawford

Decision Date26 April 2016
Docket NumberNo. DA 14–0207.,DA 14–0207.
Citation2016 MT 96,383 Mont. 229,371 P.3d 381
PartiesSTATE of Montana, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Robert Lee CRAWFORD, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtMontana Supreme Court

For Appellant: Chad Wright, Chief Appellate Defender, Chad R. Vanisko, Assistant Appellant Defender, Helena, Montana.

For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Katie F. Schulz, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana, Steven Eschenbacher, Lake County Attorney, James Lapotka, Deputy County Attorney, Polson, Montana.


delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶ 1 Robert Lee Crawford appeals his conviction from the Twentieth Judicial District Court, Lake County, for criminal possession of dangerous drugs. We affirm.

¶ 2 We address the following issues on appeal:

(1) Whether the District Court erred in denying Crawford's motion to suppress evidence of methamphetamine that law enforcement officers found on Crawford's person after conducting a search incident to his arrest for violating the terms of his parole.
(2) Whether Crawford received ineffective assistance of counsel when his counsel did not file proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law following the evidentiary hearing relating to Crawford's suppression motion.
(3) Whether the District Court abused its discretion by denying Crawford's third discovery request.
(4) Whether the District Court erred by denying Crawford's posttrial motion to dismiss based upon the Court's failure to arraign him on the Second Amended Information.
(5) Whether the District Court adequately addressed Crawford's complaints concerning his assigned counsel.

¶ 3 On December 23, 2010, Crawford was released on parole in Butte–Silver Bow County after his incarceration at the Montana State Prison for multiple drug-related felony convictions. As a condition of his parole, a travel restriction was imposed upon Crawford, which required that he obtain written permission from his parole officer, Karley Kump (Officer Kump), before travelling outside the counties of Silver Bow, Beaverhead, Jefferson, and Deer Lodge.

¶ 4 On March 13, 2012, Flathead Tribal Police Officer Casey Couture

(Officer Couture) was on patrol in Lake County when he observed a vehicle with a single operating headlight. Officer Couture initiated a traffic stop and identified Crawford as the driver of the vehicle. Officer Couture noticed that there were four passengers in the vehicle, one of whom Officer Couture recognized as Asa Lehrke (Lehrke) based upon Lehrke's prior involvement in the sale of illegal drugs. Officer Couture arrested Lehrke on an outstanding warrant and issued a warning to Crawford regarding his inoperative headlight. While being transported, Lehrke told Officer Couture that two of the men in the vehicle were armed robbery suspects and another one of the men produced methamphetamine.

¶ 5 After returning to the Flathead Tribal Police Station, Officer Couture searched the Montana Correctional Offender Network database and learned that Crawford was on parole in Silver Bow County. Officer Couture contacted the Butte–Silver Bow County Probation and Parole Office and left a voice message, inquiring as to whether Crawford was in violation of his parole. Officer Kump returned Officer Couture's call and spoke with Northwest Drug Task Force Agent Arlen Auld (Agent Auld). Officer Kump advised Agent Auld that Crawford was in violation of his parole, explaining that Lake County was outside his assigned travel district and Crawford did not have permission to travel outside the district. Officer Kump requested that Officer Couture arrest Crawford for violating the terms of his parole, and Agent Auld relayed this information to Officer Couture.

¶ 6 On March 17, 2012, while on patrol in Lake County, Officer Couture and Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Levi Read (Deputy Read) observed Crawford's vehicle pull into a local gas station. Based upon the information received from Officer Kump, Officer Couture and Deputy Read initiated a traffic stop of Crawford's vehicle and placed Crawford under arrest for violating his parole. After conducting a search incident to arrest, the officers discovered two vials in Crawford's pants pocket. Subsequent testing at the Montana State Crime Lab revealed that the vials contained methamphetamine.

¶ 7 On March 29, 2012, the State charged Crawford by Information with criminal possession of dangerous drugs with the intent to distribute. The Court subsequently arraigned Crawford on that charge. On April 25, 2012, the State amended the Information and added a charge of felony criminal forfeiture. On August 17, 2012, the State filed a Second Amended Information, dismissing the charge of criminal forfeiture and reducing the charge of criminal possession with intent to the lesser-included offense of criminal possession of dangerous drugs. The District Court did not arraign Crawford on the Second Amended Information.

¶ 8 On July 26, 2013, Crawford filed a third request for discovery in which he requested that the State provide copies of email exchanges between law enforcement and parole officers and information regarding Lehrke as an informant. Crawford also maintained that the arrest video the State provided was not the original video, and Crawford requested he be allowed to view the original video because he believed that the video produced by the State had been altered. The District Court denied Crawford's request, concluding that the State had complied fully with its discovery obligations under § 46–15–322, MCA


¶ 9 On February 5, 2013, Crawford filed a motion to suppress the evidence of methamphetamine found on his person and alleged that the arresting officers had no authority to detain him. Crawford maintained that the search was unlawful because the arresting officers used Crawford's parole status as a false pretense for their real intent, which Crawford argued was to seek out a purported “meth lab.” After Crawford and the State submitted briefing, the District Court conducted a hearing on Crawford's motion to suppress. The State thereafter filed proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law with the District Court, but Crawford's trial counsel did not. The District Court denied Crawford's motion to suppress, concluding that Officer Couture and Deputy Read lawfully arrested Crawford for violating the terms of his parole and the officers performed a legal search incident to arrest whereupon they discovered the two vials of methamphetamine.

¶ 10 On the first day of trial on December 2, 2013, Crawford requested that he be given a copy of the Second Amended Information. The court informed Crawford that he would need to discuss the Second Amended Information with his attorney, which led to the following exchange regarding Crawford's trial counsel:

Court: Mr. Crawford, you have very able counsel. You would be well-advised to work through him and in front of the jury let him—
Crawford: I don't have a whole lot of faith here, your Honor.
Court: Well, he's a very competent attorney
Crawford: I'm the one facing 100 years here.

¶ 11 On the second day of trial on December 3, 2013, Crawford and the District Court again engaged in an exchange regarding Crawford's counsel:

Court: Mr. Stenerson has been your attorney since August. Have you been satisfied with the services of Mr. Stenerson?
Crawford: He has been my attorney since November of 2012. And he has done more in my case than anybody else has. But as far as things getting done in a timely manner, things being followed through with, no. I think—I feel strongly there's prejudice against me because there's items that have been brought in in front of the jury, a whole file full of pictures that—
Court: As to the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, given the fact that Mr. Stenerson, it sounds like, has done a professional job and he has been your counsel for a year now, there isn't anything that at this stage of the proceedings would lead a court to say that this—that this has been proven. This is going to require a separate hearing. It's going to require a written motion, and we are not going to do that in mid trial.
Crawford: I was going say, we're at trial, and I have tried to bring these issues up.

¶ 12 On December 3, 2013, a jury found Crawford guilty of criminal possession in violation of § 45–9–102, MCA

. The District Court sentenced Crawford as a persistent felony offender and committed him to the Montana State Prison for a term of 20 years, with 10 of those years suspended.

¶ 13 On December 31, 2013, Crawford filed a posttrial motion to dismiss, arguing that the State's failure to arraign him on the Second Amended Information constituted reversible error. The District Court denied the motion, concluding that, because the Second Amended Information merely dropped one charge, reduced another charge to a lesser-included offense, and did not add any new charges, the Second Amended Information included no substantive amendments. The court explained that pursuant to § 46–11–205, MCA

, a defendant is required to be arraigned on an amended information only if an amendment is substantive.

¶ 14 Crawford timely appealed.


¶ 15 We review a district court's ruling on a motion to suppress to determine whether its findings of fact are clearly erroneous and its interpretation and application of the law are correct. State v. Fischer, 2014 MT 112, ¶ 8, 374 Mont. 533, 323 P.3d 891


¶ 16 Ineffective assistance of counsel claims are mixed questions of law and fact that this Court reviews de novo. State v. Crosley, 2009 MT 126, ¶ 27, 350 Mont. 223, 206 P.3d 932



¶ 17 (1) Whether the District Court erred in denying Crawford's motion to suppress evidence of methamphetamine that law enforcement officers found on Crawford's person after conducting a search incident to his arrest for violating the terms of his parole.

¶ 18 Both the Fourth...

To continue reading

Request your trial
4 cases
  • State v. Arthur Ray Peoples
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • January 11, 2022
    ...suspicion of a probation/parole violation and the search remains within the scope of that reasonable suspicion. State v. Crawford, 2016 MT 96, ¶¶ 19-22, 383 Mont. 229, 371 P.3d 381 (inquiry into any alleged ulterior law enforcement motive is "inappropriate" if parole search is otherwise val......
  • Crawford v. Couture, DA 16–0282
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • November 15, 2016
    ...possession of dangerous drugs. A jury found him guilty. Crawford appealed his conviction and we affirmed in State v. Robert Lee Crawford , 2016 MT 96, 383 Mont. 229, 371 P.3d 381.¶4 During his appeal, Crawford filed the instant complaint in state court seeking recovery from the named defend......
  • Brunette v. State, DA 15–0551.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • May 31, 2016
    ...that an occupant of the vehicle has committed or is committing an offense.” Farabee, ¶ 30 (citations omitted). Accord State v. Crawford, 2016 MT 96, ¶ 21, 383 Mont. 229, 371 P.3d 381 (and concluding that “our precedent has long established that inquiry into the subjective motivations of law......
  • City of Helena v. Brown, DA 17-0019.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • October 10, 2017
    ...into the subjective motivations of law enforcement ... is inappropriate in assessing the validity of an arrest." State v. Crawford , 2016 MT 96, ¶ 21, 383 Mont. 229, 371 P.3d 381. ¶ 10 "Particularized suspicion does not require certainty; it depends on the totality of the circumstances in w......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT