High court says Missoula judges wrongfully kept man in jail

The Montana Supreme Court ruled last week against the Missoula County District Court, arguing the court was unlawfully keeping a man in jail while his pending cases were incorrectly transferred to the district court from the city’s municipal court.

Helio Leal De La Hoz faces two sets of misdemeanor charges, from July 2021 and May 2022 alleged offenses. The Supreme Court’s ruling sides with Leal De La Hoz, arguing the misdemeanor offenses didn’t belong in the district court’s jurisdiction, which handles felony cases. It also ordered him released from jail.

Leal De La Hoz was charged with two misdemeanor offenses in July of 2021, and four more misdemeanor offenses in a separate incident in May of this year. For the July 2021 charges, he was ordered unfit to proceed. In the May cases, Leal De La Hoz made an initial appearance and was held on a $600 bond.

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He was not arraigned for the May charges. Instead, Municipal Court Judge Eli Parker opted to transfer the two cases to Missoula County District Court.

Parker explains in his affidavit that he requested the Missoula County District Court to assume jurisdiction over

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