Missoula v. Franklin

This case challenges the imposition of a surcharge by the City of Missoula that is not authorized by state law. Appellant pled no contest to a charge of disorderly conduct. Sentence was deferred for 12 months and she was sentenced to a fine of $100, $50 for the cost of prosecution, and $110 in additional surcharges. As authorized by state law, the surcharges consisted of $15 for the salaries of the city attorney and deputies, $50 for a victim and witness advocate program, $10 for court information technology, and $10 for the Montana Law Enforcement Academy. The court also imposed an additional $25 surcharge to fund the City Attorney’s office. The defendant moved to strike the additional $25 surcharge, arguing that it was not authorized by Montana law.


The Missoula Municipal Court denied the motion to strike the $25 surcharge and the District Court affirmed. The Montana Supreme Court reversed, holding that the municipal court exceeded its authority by adding the $25 surcharge which imposed a greater burden on the appellant than allowed under Montana law. The Court remanded with instructions to strike the $25 surcharge. Franklin’s attorneys will also file a class action lawsuit to return that surcharge to everyone who has paid it since the resolution was passed more than five years ago. Further, following this decision, a lawsuit was filed against the City of Billings on behalf of individuals who paid a $10 surcharge after being convicted or pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges or traffic violations since 2005, which plaintiffs claim was similarly unauthorized by Montana law.

You can read the full text of the opinion here. 

42 U.S.C. § 1983 (alleging due process and equal protection violations)
DA 16-0760
December 2016
Chad Wright, James Reavis, Helena Montana