Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Terrance Tyler appealed his conviction for Aggravated Assault in violation of N.D.C.C. 12.1-17-02(1)(a). Tyler was charged with Aggravated Assault following an altercation with the victim. The victim was subpoenaed by the State and was called as a witness during the presentation of the State’s case. Following her direct testimony, the victim was subject to cross-examination by Tyler’s counsel. At the conclusion of her testimony, the district court informed the victim she had not been released from her subpoena, excluded the victim from the courtroom, and told the victim she could be recalled as a witness for either the State or the Defendant. The victim went into premature labor after her testimony and before the start of the next day of trial. Tyler moved for a mistrial asserting he was prejudiced by the unavailability of the victim to provide additional testimony. The district court denied the motion for a mistrial. The State called three additional witnesses and rested its case. Tyler moved for a mistrial for a second time based on the absence of the victim and the district court again denied the request for a mistrial. Tyler immediately requested that the district court allow the victim to be recalled to testify by telephone, the State opposed, and the district court denied the request to recall the victim as a witness by telephone. Tyler contended that the district court abused its discretion in denying his motions for mistrial when the victim became unavailable to provide additional testimony after testifying earlier in the trial, the district court improperly altered the order of the trial, and the unavailability of the victim to provide additional testimony resulted in a manifest injustice. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "North Dakota v. Tyler" on Justia Law

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Jason Vogt appealed a district court’s orders summarily dismissing his motion to vacate judgment and withdraw guilty plea. In 2014, Vogt pleaded guilty to one felony count of gross sexual imposition and was sentenced. In 2015, Vogt applied for post-conviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied Vogt’s application. Vogt appealed and the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. In 2017, Vogt filed a second application for post-conviction relief. The application was denied, and Vogt did not appeal. On March 7, 2019, Vogt filed a N.D.R.Ct. 3.2 motion to vacate judgment and withdraw guilty plea under N.D.R.Crim.P. 11(d). Vogt alleged: (1) his confession was coerced; (2) his attorney misinformed him of the sentence he would receive if he pleaded guilty; and (3) his plea was not entered into voluntarily, knowingly, or intelligently. Without explicitly asserting them, the State raised the affirmative defenses of res judicata and misuse of process. The State argued that Vogt’s claims were barred because the basis for his claims had already been litigated in his previous applications for post-conviction relief. The State did not move for summary disposition. Without a response from Vogt, the district court issued its order denying Vogt’s motion. Vogt argued the district court erred by denying his motion before allowing him time to respond pursuant to N.D.R.Ct. 3.2(a)(2). The Supreme Court concurred, reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "North Dakota v. Vogt" on Justia Law

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Marquis Smith appealed after a jury found him guilty of two counts of gross sexual imposition. The State alleged Smith had sexual contact with a seven-year-old child on December 9-10, 2017. The alleged victim was the child of Smith’s girlfriend. Smith argued the district court erred by failing to exclude evidence that he accessed pornographic websites and by failing to give the jury an instruction limiting the use of the evidence. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The State of North Dakota appealed an order dismissing a criminal complaint charging Jerome Greenshields with two counts of sexual assault and one count of gross sexual imposition. In February 2018, the State charged Greenshields with one count of sexual assault under N.D.C.C. 12.1-20-07(1)(f) alleged to have occurred between June 1, 1997, and August 30, 1997, and one count of gross sexual imposition under N.D.C.C. 12.1-20-03(2)(a) and (c) alleged to have occurred between September 1, 2001, and September 31, 2001. In August 2018, Greenshields moved for a bill of particulars setting forth the specific date of the allegation of sexual assault because, effective August 1, 1997, the penalty for a violation of N.D.C.C. 12.1-20-07(1)(f) changed from a class A misdemeanor to a class C felony. Greenshields argued the bill of particulars was necessary to adequately inform him of “his right to be free from ex post facto prosecution.” In October 2018, the district court granted the motion and ordered the State to file a bill of particulars. After the State failed to timely produce the bill of particulars, Greenshields moved for an order dismissing the case “for systemic disregard of the law” because the State had violated the district court’s “explicit orders” and “[d]ismissal is required to prophylactically ensure the State’s future compliance.” Greenshields’ motion and brief in support of the motion did not state whether he sought dismissal with or without prejudice. The State opposed the motion, arguing the victim could not remember the specific dates of the alleged offense. In his reply brief in support of the motion, Greenshields once again urged the court to “dismiss” for willfully disobeying its order. No hearing was requested or held on the motion. Then the court granted Greenshields' motion to dismiss. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that because there was no evidence to support the district court’s ruling that an earlier order dismissing a similar criminal complaint and information was intended to be “with prejudice,” the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "North Dakota v. Greenshields" on Justia Law

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In 2018, the State charged Joe Johns with unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia as a class C felony second offense under N.D.C.C. 19-03.4-03(2), which enhanced the charge from a class A misdemeanor to a class C felony if the person previously has been convicted of an offense under N.D.C.C. title 19. The criminal information alleged that on August 29, 2018, Johns used or possessed with intent to use a glass smoking device for use with methamphetamine and that he “has a prior conviction in case no. 08-2016-CR-00295.” Johns conditionally pled guilty after the district court denied his motion to dismiss a charge for unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia as a class C felony second offense. Johns argued on appeal he did not have a prior conviction for enhancement purposes because a deferred imposition of sentence for a prior charge under N.D.C.C. title 19 resulted in a dismissal of that charge. The North Dakota Supreme Court concurred: the language of N.D.C.C. 19-03.4-03(2), authorized enhancement for unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia “[i]f a person previously has been convicted of an offense under this title, other than an offense related to marijuana.” That language, when read together with N.D.C.C. sections 12.1-32-02(4) and 12.1-32-07.1 and the Court’s decision in North Dakota v. Nelson, 2019 ND 204, referred to a conviction for a deferred sentence that had not been dismissed. Johns’ prior case had been dismissed. Therefore, the court could not consider Johns’ prior conviction to enhance the charge in this case. The Court reversed and remanded to allow Johns to withdraw his conditional guilty plea to the enhanced charge. View "North Dakota v. Johns" on Justia Law

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Melanie Vagts appealed after the district court denied her motion to suppress evidence and she conditionally pled guilty to a charge of actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. After review of her case, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded law enforcement officers’ encounter with Vagts was not an illegal search and seizure, but an officer’s implied consent advisory did not substantively comply with the statutory requirements of N.D.C.C. 39-20-01(3)(a) and the results of her breath test were not admissible under N.D.C.C. 39-20-01(3)(b). Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded to allow Vagts to withdraw her conditional guilty plea. View "City of Bismarck v. Vagts" on Justia Law

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Omar Kalmio appealed after the district court entered a judgment on remand again denying his post-conviction relief application. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court on remand did not clearly err in finding Kalmio failed to show he was prejudiced in his direct appeal when his appellate counsel did not brief the issue of the admissibility of prior bad acts testimony. Furthermore, the Court concluded the district court did not err in denying him an additional evidentiary hearing on remand. View "Kalmio v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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William Hoehn appealed after he was convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and giving false information to law enforcement. Hoehn was in a relationship with Brooke Crews. Crews killed Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind by cutting open her abdomen and removing her pre-term baby. Hoehn arrived at the home he shared with Crews after Crews had killed Greywind and taken the baby. He then helped to clean up evidence of the crime, including hiding Greywind’s body in a closet, wrapped in garbage bags. Hoehn also helped Crews hide the baby from Greywind’s family and law enforcement. Hoehn carried the baby around in a book bag when in public. The district court found Hoehn had previously been convicted of a similar offense and sentenced him as a dangerous special offender to life in prison. On appeal, Hoehn argued the district court erred in its dangerous special offender finding, in applying a life expectancy table not authorized by statute, in failing to advise him of the maximum sentence prior to accepting his guilty plea, and in listing kidnapping rather than conspiracy to commit kidnapping on the amended judgment. Though the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, it vacated the sentence, and remanded for resentencing without application of the dangerous special offender statute. View "North Dakota v. Hoehn" on Justia Law

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John Casson appealed a criminal judgment entered after his conditional plea of guilty to possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress evidence. On appeal, Casson arged the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress because law enforcement lacked reasonable suspicion to detain him and unlawfully seized him by stating a K-9 unit would be called to complete a “sniff” of Casson’s vehicle. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded that although Casson was seized, sufficient reasonable suspicion existed to detain Casson. The district court judgment was affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Casson" on Justia Law

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In 2018, a district court referee entered two temporary disorderly conduct restraining orders against Donna Kenny, which were sought by two of her neighbors. The neighbors lived in the same five-unit condominium complex. A deputy sheriff served Kenny with the orders on the same day. The orders prohibited Kenny from having any physical contact with or coming within 100 feet of the two neighbors. A hearing on the temporary orders was scheduled for October 8, 2018. On September 28, 2018, Kenny approached the two neighbors at a backyard fire to ask who had parked in her spot in the common parking lot of the condominium complex. According to the neighbors, they advised Kenny she was not allowed to speak to them. Both neighbors testified that Kenny replied with either “shove it up your ass” or “stick it up your ass.” The neighbors called the police, and Kenny was arrested for violating the restraining orders. The North Dakota Supreme Court found N.D.C.C. 12.1-31.2-01(5) did not violate Kenny’s constitutional right to due process, N.D.C.C. 12.1-31.2-01 was not unconstitutionally overbroad, and sufficient evidence existed to convict her of violating the disorderly conduct restraining orders. View "North Dakota v. Kenny" on Justia Law