Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

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Kerry Komrosky appealed a criminal judgment after entering a conditional plea of guilty to three drug-related charges. In his plea, Komrosky reserved his right to appeal the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence. Komrosky argued the district court erred in finding the warrantless entry into his home fell within the emergency exception to the warrant requirement and the evidence seized was in plain view. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Komrosky" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Department of Transportation appeals from a judgment reversing the decision of an administrative hearing officer revoking Corey Joseph Jesser’s driving privileges for 180 days. Jesser refused to take a sobriety test and was arrested for driving under the influence. The hearing officer found Peterson had reason to believe Jesser was involved in a traffic accident as the driver, Jesser’s body contained alcohol, and he refused to submit to the onsite screening test. The hearing officer found the arresting police officer had reasonable grounds to believe Jesser was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The hearing officer found Jesser was arrested and refused to submit to the chemical breath test. The license was revoked for 180 days based on Jesser's refusal of the onsite screening and chemical tests. Notwithstanding these findings, the district court reversed the hearing officer's decision. Refusal of the screening test could have been cured by consenting to take the chemical test after arrest; Jesser argued a statutory opportunity to consult with an attorney before deciding whether to submit to the chemical test was deprived. Whether the statutory right to counsel before chemical testing under N.D.C.C. 39-20-01 impacted the right to cure under N.D.C.C. 39-20-14 was a question of first impression for the North Dakota Supreme Court. After review, the Court determined the limited statutory right of a defendant to consult with an attorney before taking a chemical test attached only after arrest. The Court rejected the argument that a post-arrest limited statutory right to counsel created a pre-arrest right because an individual was deprived of a post-arrest remedy. The Court reversed the district court judgment and reinstated the hearing officer's decision revoking Jesser's driving privileges. View "Jesser v. N.D. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Donald Edwardson appealed a judgment dismissing his application for post-conviction relief. Edwardson was charged with failing to register as a sexual offender; the State alleged Edwardson had failed to register his temporary residence while he was residing at a hotel from March 1 through March 31, 2017. At Edwardson’s initial appearance he was informed of the minimum mandatory sentence for the offense. After a contested preliminary hearing, the district court found probable cause to bind the case over for further proceedings. Immediately after the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, there were brief discussions between counsel for the State and Edwardson’s attorney, followed by a brief discussion between Edwardson and his attorney. As a result of those discussions Edwardson decided to enter a plea of guilty to the charge. The parties informed the court they had reached an agreement, Edwardson was advised of his rights, he entered a guilty plea and he was sentenced. Edwardson argued he was entitled to post-conviction relief because he received ineffective assistance of counsel during the underlying criminal proceedings, he discovered new evidence justifying the withdrawal of his plea of guilty, the underlying criminal charge was unlawful, and he was not informed of the minimum mandatory sentence before he entered his plea of guilty. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Edwardson v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted defendant Donald Clark of human trafficking of a minor (count 1), attempted pimping of a minor (count 2), and pandering (count 3). The court sentenced defendant to a total state prison term of 16 years as follows: (1) the middle term of eight years on count 1, which was doubled to 16 years pursuant to the “Three Strikes” law; (2) the middle term of two years on count 2, which was doubled to four years pursuant to the Three Strikes law; and (3) the middle term of four years on count 3, which was doubled to eight years pursuant to the Three Strikes law. Sentences on counts 2 and 3 were stayed pursuant to Penal Code section 654. The court also struck defendant’s prison prior, ordered defendant to register as a sex offender, and required defendant to pay a $300 sex offender fine, $120 in court operations fees, and a $90 criminal conviction assessment. On appeal, defendant argued: (1) there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction for human trafficking of a minor because the victim was not a real person or minor; (2) there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction for attempted pimping; (3) the court improperly admitted prejudicial evidence that he was pimping and pandering other women; (4) the State's expert witness improperly opined defendant was guilty of the charged crimes and usurped the jury’s fact-finding function; (5) his confrontation and due process rights were violated because he could not effectively cross-examine the State's expert witness; and (6) the court erred by failing to instruct the jury on an essential element of human trafficking of a minor. After careful consideration, the Court of Appeal disagreed with all of defendant’s contentions on appeal and affirmed the judgment in full. View "California v. Clark" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Robert Vivar pled guilty to possession of materials with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine. Defendant was placed on probation for three years, and as a condition of probation was to serve one year in county jail. He also received a referral to the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) program. Shortly after his release, defendant was removed from the country as a consequence of his plea. Over a decade later, defendant filed a motion to vacate his conviction pursuant to Penal Code section 1473.7. The trial court denied defendant’s motion. On appeal, defendant argued the trial court erred in denying his motion to vacate his guilty plea because his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to investigate and advise defendant of the immigration consequences of his plea and for failing to defend or mitigate the judgment. Defendant also argued that his plea must be vacated because it was legally invalid. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "California v. Vivar" on Justia Law

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Chad Walker appealed an amended judgment that included an order to pay restitution. Walker pled guilty to theft for possession of a stolen motorcycle. The motorcycle owner filed a victim impact statement requesting restitution for the cost of repairing the motorcycle. A restitution hearing was held and an amended criminal judgment was entered, ordering Walker pay $2,410.69 in repairs for damage to the motorcycle. Walker argued he pled guilty to possession of stolen property and was not accused of stealing or damaging the motorcycle. He further argued the damages were not related to his criminal offense and were not a direct result of his criminal action. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined, after review of the trial court record, when returned, the motorcycle was physically damaged. Repairs included replacing multiple covers, two turn signals, fuel tank, and installing a missing heat shield. The Court found the damage to the motorcycle was directly related to the criminal offense, and it could have reasonably been inferred that damage was caused during possession of the stolen property. Therefore, the Court affirmed the restitution order. View "North Dakota v. Walker" on Justia Law

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Rocky Stein appealed a district court order denying his application for post-conviction relief. Stein was charged with criminal vehicular homicide, a class A felony, and pled guilty to manslaughter, a class B felony. Stein entered an “open plea” and the judge sentenced Stein to ten years with the North Dakota Department of Corrections with three years suspended, and supervised probation for five years. In his application for post-conviction relief Stein claims ineffective assistance of counsel. Stein argues his trial attorney did not adequately inform him he was subject to a mandatory minimum sentence requiring him to serve 85 percent of the sentence imposed and that his trial attorney made assertions in the nature of a guarantee that he would serve a probation only sentence. Stein also urges this Court to overrule Sambursky v. North Dakota, 751 N.W.2d 247, and North Dakota v. Peterson, 927 N.W.2d 74, to the extent necessary, which he claims was essential to ensure defendants ere afforded sufficient information regarding the 85 percent rule to make an intelligent decision affecting the ultimate sentence in their criminal case. The North Dakota Supreme Court declined to overrule Sambursky and Peterson, and found no other reversible error, thus affirming the decision not to grant post-conviction relief. View "Stein v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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James Dubois, Jr., appealed a criminal judgment entered after the district court revoked his probation and resentenced him to five years’ incarceration. In 2017, Dubois plead guilty to two counts of criminal trespass and refusal to halt. The first criminal trespass count was a class C felony for which he was sentenced to a term of eighteen months’ commitment to the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, first to serve 90 days with the balance suspended for eighteen months of supervised probation, to be served concurrently with the other two counts. In January 2019, a probation officer petitioned to revoke Dubois’ probation, alleging he committed three new criminal offenses, and a fourth allegation that was later dismissed. Dubois was convicted of each of the three offenses. Dubois admitted the allegations at the revocation hearing and asked to be placed back on probation. The district court rejected that request and asked for an alternative recommendation from Dubois. Dubois then argued for a sentence of time already served. The court revoked his probation and resentenced him to five years’ incarceration with credit for time previously served. Dubois argued on appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court the district court abused its discretion in revoking his probation and the sentence was illegal. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Dubois" on Justia Law

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Allan Pailing appealed a district court order denying his motion for mistrial and dismissal of charges. Pailing was charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance. During closing arguments he objected to an anecdotal story the State used, and argued the State impliedly commented on Pailing’s failure to testify. The district court did not immediately rule on the objection and directed the parties to finish closing arguments. Pailing briefed the objection, which the district court ultimately overruled and denied Pailing’s motion for mistrial and dismissal of charges. Pailing argued on appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court that the State’s explanation of “circumstantial evidence” through a personal narrative indirectly and improperly commented on his silence and violated his due process rights. He alternatively argued the district court abused its discretion by permitting the State to address Pailing’s credibility, absent his testimony, which prejudiced Pailing. The Supreme Court concluded the correct standard of review whether Pailing’s due process rights were violated was de novo, and that the prosecutor’s anecdotal story did not violate Pailing’s constitutional rights. Furthermore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in overruling Pailing’s objection and denying the motion for mistrial. View "North Dakota v. Pailing" on Justia Law

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Karen Wieland appeals from a judgment allowing the city of Fargo to take her property for flood mitigation purposes and awarding her $939,044.32 in just compensation, attorney fees, costs, and statutory expenses. Because the district court did not misapply the law in concluding the taking of Wieland’s property was necessary for a public use, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirm the judgment. View "City of Fargo v. Wieland" on Justia Law