State v. Roundstone

Decision Date14 September 2011
Docket NumberNo. DA 10–0402.,DA 10–0402.
Citation362 Mont. 74,261 P.3d 1009,2011 MT 227
PartiesSTATE of Montana, Plaintiff and Appellee,v.Jule Chance ROUNDSTONE, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtMontana Supreme Court


For Appellant: Joslyn Hunt, Chief Appellate Defender; Shiloh Hernandez, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana.For Appellee: Steve Bullock, Montana Attorney General; Mardell Ployhar, Assistant Attorney General, Leo J. Gallagher, Lewis and Clark County Attorney; Melissa Broch, Deputy County Attorney, Helena, Montana.Justice JIM RICE delivered the Opinion of the Court.

[362 Mont. 75] ¶ 1 Jule Roundstone appeals from the denial of his motion to dismiss and the sentence for felony escape imposed by the First Judicial District Court, Lewis and Clark County. We affirm. We address the following issues:

¶ 2 I. Did the District Court err by denying Roundstone's motion to dismiss?

¶ 3 II. Is § 45–7–306, MCA, void for vagueness as applied to Roundstone?

¶ 4 III. Did the prosecution violate Roundstone's due process rights by seeking an unusually severe sentence?


¶ 5 In 2006, Roundstone was convicted of assault with a weapon and sentenced to a five-year commitment to the Department of Corrections (DOC or Department). He was placed at the Montana State Prison (MSP). In March 2007, Roundstone was transferred to the Helena Prerelease Center (HPRC or prerelease). In July of 2007, while still placed at HPRC, Roundstone appeared before the Board of Pardons and Parole (Board). The Board granted his parole conditioned, inter alia, upon successfully completing prerelease center requirements and obtaining employment. The Board projected Roundstone would complete the requirements of the prerelease center about September 11, 2007. Roundstone requested a ten-day furlough to obtain employment in Hardin. Pursuant to the furlough rules which he signed, Roundstone agreed that he would “report to the supervising Probation & Parole Officer immediately upon arrival in the community and daily thereafter as instructed by the officer,” and was warned that [a]bsconding from furlough or failure to return on time will be considered felony escape.” His Furlough Request And Permit indicated that he would return to the prerelease center on October 4, 2007 “if necessary,” depending on whether he obtained employment or sought a ten-day furlough extension. If Roundstone obtained employment while on furlough, his probation officer would convey this information to the Board, which could issue a parole certificate, without requiring him to return to HPRC.

¶ 6 Roundstone's furlough request was granted, and he was released from the prerelease center on September 24 for a ten-day period running through October 4. Roundstone reported to his probation officer, Cotton Secrest, in Hardin on the first day of his furlough, but failed to report thereafter. On October 9, Secrest initiated arrest proceedings for Roundstone, who was apprehended in November 2007.

¶ 7 Roundstone was charged with felony escape pursuant to § 45–7–306, MCA (2007).1 The Amended Information alleged that Roundstone, “an inmate subject to official detention with the Montana Department of Corrections, temporarily assigned to the Helena Pre–Release Center, purposely or knowingly removed himself from official detention.” The Information also alleged that Roundstone “failed to report to his Probation and Parole Officer.” The State filed a Notice of Persistent Felony Offender pursuant to § 46–13–108, MCA, indicating its intention to seek that designation if Roundstone was found guilty.

¶ 8 Roundstone moved to dismiss the charge, arguing he could not commit escape because he was not subject to official detention while on furlough. He characterized furlough as “a program of parole,” which is exempted under the escape statute. The State responded that Roundstone had inmate status at HPRC, which constituted a community corrections facility or program, and he was therefore subject to official detention. The District Court conducted a hearing at which Annette Carter, a State Probation and Parole Officer and supervisor, testified. The District Court granted Roundstone's motion as to his failure to report to his probation officer while he was on furlough, reasoning that Roundstone was “on a parole-related furlough.” The District Court denied the motion as to the allegation that Roundstone had ‘removed himself from official detention,’ reasoning that when Roundstone was released on furlough, he was instructed to return to HPRC, “a form of ‘official detention.’ Accordingly, the District Court denied Roundstone's motion “to the extent that the Amended Information charge[d] [Roundstone] with failing to report back to official detention” at HPRC.

¶ 9 The State then moved for leave to file a Second Amended Information “in order to conform more closely with the Court's Order.” The Second Amended Information alleged that Roundstone committed escape by failing to return to official detention at HPRC following temporary leave for the specific purpose of obtaining employment. Roundstone pled not guilty to this charge and filed another motion to dismiss, which was denied. Roundstone filed a petition for writ of supervisory control with this Court challenging the denial of both motions to dismiss, and we denied the petition.

¶ 10 Roundstone then entered a guilty plea to the charge, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motions to dismiss. Roundstone was sentenced to ten years to the DOC, with five years suspended.


¶ 11 “The denial of a motion to dismiss in a criminal case presents a question of law which we review de novo.” State v. Knowles, 2010 MT 186, ¶ 23, 357 Mont. 272, 239 P.3d 129. The District Court's denial of Roundstone's motion to dismiss based on its interpretation of the escape statute was a conclusion of law. See State v. Chandler, 277 Mont. 476, 478, 922 P.2d 1164, 1165–66 (1996). This Court reviews conclusions of law for correctness. State v. Knudson, 2007 MT 324, ¶ 11, 340 Mont. 167, 174 P.3d 469.

¶ 12 “Our review of constitutional questions is plenary.” State v. G'Stohl, 2010 MT 7, ¶ 7, 355 Mont. 43, 223 P.3d 926. Statutes have a presumption of constitutionality, and we will construe a statute to avoid an unconstitutional interpretation whenever possible. State v. Samples, 2008 MT 416, ¶ 14, 347 Mont. 292, 198 P.3d 803. The party challenging a statute has the burden of demonstrating the statute is unconstitutional. G'Stohl, ¶ 7. Ineffective assistance of counsel claims present mixed issues of law and fact, which are reviewed de novo. State v. Sartain, 2010 MT 213, ¶ 11, 357 Mont. 483, 241 P.3d 1032.

¶ 13 We review allegations of prosecutorial error de novo, “considering the prosecutor's conduct in the context of the entire proceeding.” State v. Rardon, 2005 MT 129, ¶ 14, 327 Mont. 228, 115 P.3d 182.


¶ 14 I. Did the District Court err by denying Roundstone's motion to dismiss?

¶ 15 Section 45–7–306(2), MCA, sets forth the crime of escape, providing that [a] person subject to official detention commits the offense of escape if the person knowingly or purposely eludes official detention or fails to return to official detention following temporary leave granted for a specific purpose or limited time.” Further defined is “official detention,” the interpretation of which is the central issue in this appeal. Roundstone argues the District Court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the escape charge against him because he was not in “official detention” while on furlough. Alternatively, Roundstone argues that, while on furlough, he should also be considered on “parole” and therefore exempt from the definition of “official detention.”

A. Official Detention

¶ 16 Roundstone contends dismissal of the escape charge is required under State v. Roberts, 275 Mont. 365, 912 P.2d 812 (1996). The State argues that § 45–7–306, MCA, was substantially amended after Roberts.

¶ 17 Roberts was an inmate at MSP and was granted parole subject to conditions, including finding housing and employment. Roberts, 275 Mont. at 366, 912 P.2d at 813. Roberts was approved for a ten-day furlough from MSP. Roberts, 275 Mont. at 366, 912 P.2d at 813. Roberts failed to meet with his parole officer as scheduled and was charged with felony escape under § 45–7–306, MCA. Roberts, 275 Mont. at 366, 912 P.2d at 813. Roberts moved to dismiss the charge arguing that he was not subject to official detention while on furlough. Roberts, 275 Mont. at 366, 912 P.2d at 813. The State contended that Roberts was in a supervised release program, a category of ‘official detention’ under § 45–7–306(1), MCA. Roberts, 275 Mont. at 367, 912 P.2d at 813. The district court denied his motion, and he was convicted. Roberts, 275 Mont. at 367, 912 P.2d at 813. On appeal, we analyzed the supervised release program statutes and administrative rules, concluding the “term ‘supervised release program’ contained in § 45–7–306(1), MCA, clearly and unambiguously refers to the supervised release program ... and not to the furlough associated with parole proceedings under § 46–23–215, MCA.” Roberts, 275 Mont. at 368, 912 P.2d at 814. Because it was “clear that Roberts was released from the MSP into the parole-related furlough program and not into the supervised release program,” we reversed. Roberts, 275 Mont. at 369, 912 P.2d at 815.

¶ 18 As the State notes, the statutes have been revised since Roberts. Section 45–7–306(1), MCA (1993), applied in Roberts, defined [o]fficial detention’ as a listing of imprisonment, confinements, detentions and program placements.2 In 1997, the statute was amended, and now more broadly defines [o]fficial detention’ to mean the placement of a person in the legal custody of a municipality, a county, or the state as a result of, inter alia, an arrest, detention, charge, conviction or program...

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  • State v. Lemay
    • United States
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    ...of Review ¶ 27 “The denial of a motion to dismiss in a criminal case presents a question of law which we review de novo.” State v. Roundstone, 2011 MT 227, ¶ 11, 362 Mont. 74, 261 P.3d 1009 (quoting State v. Knowles, 2010 MT 186, ¶ 23, 357 Mont. 272, 239 P.3d 129).B. Discussion ¶ 28 The Uni......
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    ...Constitution and Article II, Section 24 of the Montana Constitution guarantee the right of effective assistance of counsel. State v. Roundstone, 2011 MT 227, ¶ 32, 362 Mont. 74, 261 P.3d 1009;State v. Sartain, 2010 MT 213, ¶ 29, 357 Mont. 483, 241 P.3d 1032. This Court reviews ineffective a......
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