Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Amanda Dockter appealed an order revoking her probation. Dockter was initially charged with corruption or solicitation of a minor in Eddy County, North Dakota. In November 2017, the State amended the charge against Dockter to include abuse or neglect of a child, a class C felony. On November 9, 2017, Dockter pled guilty in Eddy County to the child neglect charge and was committed to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for a term of one year and one day with 336 days suspended and placed on supervised probation for a period of five years. Dockter was ordered to report to the Stutsman County Correctional Facility for the period of confinement on January 1, 2018. She finished serving her 30-day jail sentence on the child neglect charge on January 28, 2018. In January 2019, Dockter’s probation officer petitioned to revoke her probation, alleging she had tested positive for methamphetamine on November 30 and December 22, 2017, and was convicted of five other criminal charges in Stutsman County on January 14, 2019, including child neglect and felon in possession of a firearm. At a February 14, 2019 probation revocation hearing, Dockter admitted she engaged in the conduct alleged in the petition to revoke and argued about the disposition. The district court found she violated the conditions of her probation. The court issued an order revoking her probation and committing her to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for one year and one day with credit of 31 days for time served with supervised probation for five years. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the order and remanded to the court to correct the period of supervised probation from five years to three years as required by N.D.C.C. 12.1-32-06.1(2). View "North Dakota v. Dockter" on Justia Law

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Ross Thomas appealed after a jury found him guilty of terrorizing, a class C felony. Trial started on March 28, 2018. The following day, the State and defendant rested, and the case was submitted to the jury. At the end of the day, the jury sent a note to the court stating they had reached a decision on three counts, were hung on one count, and no further progress would be made. The court admonished the jury and ordered them to return on the following Monday, April 2, after a holiday weekend, to continue deliberations on the remaining count. On April 2, 2018, the jury reconvened to continue its deliberations. Before the jury reconvened, however, Thomas’s counsel raised specific allegations to the district court that Thomas had overheard non-jurors discussing the content of jury deliberations and juror decisions in a public setting in town. The court did not conduct a hearing on Thomas’s allegations at that time but stated it would “let [Thomas] challenge any verdict made in a subsequent motion after there’s notice and opportunity for both parties to be prepared.” After further deliberation, the jury subsequently returned not-guilty verdicts on the aggravated assault and reckless endangerment charges and returned a guilty verdict on the terrorizing charge. The jury could not reach a unanimous verdict on the felonious restraint charge, and the court declared a mistrial on that charge. The district court sentenced Thomas on the terrorizing charge, and a criminal judgment was entered.The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in denying Thomas a hearing on alleged juror communications with non-jurors, which were discovered and brought to the court’s attention while the jury was deliberating and were alleged to be related to matters on which the jury had deliberated and the jury’s decisions. The matter was remanded for a new trial. View "North Dakota v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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Spencer Norton appealed a district court’s criminal judgment entered following a jury verdict finding him guilty of terrorizing. In November 2017, Norton was detained after being charged with arson. While detained, Norton communicated with his girlfriend through phone conversations and video visits. Norton was aware that both the video visits and the phone conversations were being recorded by law enforcement. During the phone conversations and the video visits, Norton made multiple threatening statements directed toward law enforcement and other individuals associated with his arson case. Norton also made threats that referenced the family members of law enforcement. Norton was charged with terrorizing as the result of his threats. Norton contended the offense of terrorizing required threats directed toward identified individuals and the evidence was insufficient to sustain a verdict of guilty. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Norton" on Justia Law

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Nicholas Blaskowski appealed after a jury found him guilty of driving under the influence under N.D.C.C. 39-08- 01(1)(a). Blaskowski argued the district court erred in admitting the results of his chemical breath test into evidence because the State failed to establish the chemical breath test was fairly administered under N.D.C.C. 39-20- 07 because the State did not offer proof the device used to perform the chemical breath test was installed by a field inspector prior to its use. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the approved method for conducting the chemical test at issue in this case required the device be installed by a field inspector. Absent evidence of installation of the device by a field inspector, or expert testimony establishing the test was fairly administered, the test result was not admissible. Therefore, the district court abused its discretion when it admitted the test result. View "North Dakota v. Blaskowski" on Justia Law

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Dustin Hendrickson appealed after he conditionally pled guilty to driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence. Hendrickson argued the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress because officers did not have reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigative stop. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed.. View "North Dakota v. Hendrickson" on Justia Law

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Lekemia D’Andre Caster appealed from a district court order summarily denying his application for post-conviction relief. On May 6, 2015, Caster pleaded guilty to two counts of child neglect or abuse and was sentenced to eighteen months’ probation. The State filed a petition for revocation in June 2016. On August 1, 2016, Caster applied for indigent defense services but was denied due to his income. The letter notifying Caster of this denial was returned undeliverable on August 12, 2016. A revocation hearing held on September 13, 2016, resulted in Caster’s probation being revoked and he received an eighteen month prison sentence. Caster appealed the revocation judgment which was summarily affirmed by the North Dakota Supreme Court. On October 8, 2018, Caster filed an application for post-conviction relief alleging newly discovered evidence and an unlawful sentence, which was denied. The Supreme Court concluded the post-conviction relief court failed to explain its reasoning in its order. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Caster v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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Dennis Shipton appealed district court orders summarily dismissing his petition for a writ of error coram nobis and his motion to reconsider. In April 1993, Shipton pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. Pursuant to N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 19, the case files were destroyed in 2007. Shipton filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis on October 22, 2018, alleging violations of the Fifth Amendment and ineffective assistance of counsel based on counsel’s failure to seek dismissal on the grounds of double jeopardy. Shipton did not allege newly discovered evidence. In its order, the district court noted that North Dakota did not recognize a writ of error coram nobis and instead treated the petition as one for post-conviction relief. After applying those standards, the court summarily dismissed Shipton’s petition as untimely and frivolous. Shipton filed a motion to reconsider, arguing that the State prejudiced him by prematurely destroying records from his cases. The court denied Shipton’s motion. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Shipton" on Justia Law

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Chase Swanson appealed a district court’s judgment finding him guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. The jury instructions allowed Swanson to be convicted of a conspiracy to “knowingly” cause the death of another human being. He argued conspiracy to “knowingly” cause the death of another human being is a non-cognizable offense because it did not require the actor to have had an intent to cause the death. The North Dakota Supreme Court concurred with this argument and reversed the judgment of conviction on the charge of conspiracy to commit murder. The matter was remanded for a new trial on that charge. View "North Dakota v. Swanson" on Justia Law

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Dametrian Welch appealed a district court order and amended criminal judgment. In the original judgment, count one incorrectly stated that Welch pled guilty to murder. Although Welch was originally charged with murder, under the plea agreement, the State amended the charge to “Criminal Facilitation to Murder” in exchange for Welch’s guilty plea to both criminal facilitation to murder and conspiracy to commit burglary. Welch requested the court correct its clerical error in the original judgment by amending the title of the offense in count one from “murder” to “criminal facilitation” and listing the facilitation statute, N.D.C.C. 12.1-06-02, instead of the murder statute. The State agreed that the facilitation statute could be added but should not replace the murder statute because the charge was facilitation of murder. The State argued the district court did not abuse its discretion in describing the offense of conviction as “Criminal Facilitation to Murder.” Finding no reason to disturb the district court’s order, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Welch" on Justia Law

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James Burden appealed district court orders summarily dismissing his application for post-conviction relief and denying his motion for relief from that dismissal. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court applied the wrong standard in dismissing Burden’s application on the pleadings and that he was not given the required time to respond to a dismissal by summary judgment. The Court therefore reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Burden v. North Dakota" on Justia Law