AP NEWS

35% fine on having dangerous drugs ruled unconstitutional

November 18, 2019 GMT

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A mandatory 35% fine that’s been on the books for certain drug cases since 1995 has been ruled unconstitutional by the Montana Supreme Court.

The Billings Gazette reports that the ruling last week came in a 2016 case out of Dawson County in which one person was fined $75,600 after pleading guilty to possession of dangerous drugs.

In the majority opinion signed by four justices, the court found the mandatory fine was unconstitutional in all cases because it doesn’t permit judges to consider whether the fine was excessive.

The court’s order said the mandatory fine, which was written into state law in 1995, stands “in stark contrast” to another state law that says a judge may not order a fine unless the defendant is able to pay it.

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Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com