Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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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

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Michael Wills appealed after he conditionally pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress evidence. Wills argued the district court erred in denying his motion because the arresting deputy did not have a reasonable suspicion to believe further criminal activity justified detaining and searching the vehicle after the stop ended. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the deputy needed renewed articulable suspicion to continue detention of the vehicle and passengers; the record did not support the continued seizure and search of the vehicle after the deputy ended the traffic stop. The Court therefore reversed judgment and remanded to permit Wills to withdraw his guilty plea. View "North Dakota v. Wills" on Justia Law

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Spencer Norton appealed a judgment entered after the district court denied his motion to dismiss and accepted his conditional guilty plea to the charge of failure to register as an offender against children. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded N.D.C.C. 12.1-32-15(3) imposed a statutory duty on Norton to register, and affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Norton" on Justia Law

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George Lyons appealed from a judgment entered after a jury found him guilty of gross sexual imposition. Lyons argued there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction, and the district court committed obvious error by not declaring a mistrial after the jury heard prohibited testimony. The North Dakota Supreme Court, after review of the trial court record, determined that record reflected that at the request of defense counsel the court struck the neighbor’s later nonresponsive testimony and gave a curative instruction. Lyons did not request a mistrial, but indicated he was satisfied with the court’s admonishment. The Supreme Court was thus satisfied the trial court did not deviate from established precedent in striking the responses and giving curative instructions. Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court’s failure to grant a mistrial on its own motion did not constitute a clear deviation from applicable law. View "North Dakota v. Lyons" on Justia Law

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Matthew Overholt appealed a district court order modifying its order deferring imposition of sentence. In November 2017 Overholt was charged with misdemeanor minor in possession or consumption of alcohol. In December 2017 he pled guilty. The district court entered an order deferring imposition of sentence and placed him on unsupervised probation with an end date of November 30, 2018, and with the condition that he violate no criminal laws during the probation term. The court further ordered that sixty-one days after termination of his unsupervised probation, Overholt’s guilty plea would be withdrawn, the case dismissed, and the file sealed. In April 2018 Overholt was charged with a second misdemeanor minor in possession or consumption of alcohol. In May 2018 he pled guilty in the second case, and the court entered an order deferring imposition of sentence, and placed him on unsupervised probation for three months. Overholt completed the term of unsupervised probation in the second case. Under the order deferring imposition of sentence in that case, on October 13, 2018, his guilty plea was withdrawn, the case dismissed, and the file was to have been sealed. In December 2018 the State moved the district court to modify the order deferring imposition of sentence in this case on the basis of his offense and guilty plea in the second case. The State requested Overholt’s guilty plea in this case not be withdrawn, the case not be dismissed, and the file not be sealed. On December 31, 2018, the court granted the State’s motion. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed because the district court erred in relying on the second case that had been automatically dismissed to modify its order in this case, and because the State presented no other evidence supporting its motion. View "North Dakota v. Overholt" on Justia Law

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R.A.S. was convicted of gross sexual imposition in 1991 and sentenced to eight years. In 2001 R.A.S. was convicted of possession of stolen property, and in 2002 assault on a corrections officer. As part of the sentence for the possession of stolen property charge, the district court recommended R.A.S. receive a mental health evaluation. Before his scheduled release in 2004, the State successfully petitioned to commit R.A.S. as a sexually dangerous individual. R.A.S. appealed denial of his petition for discharge and continuing commitment as a sexually dangerous individual. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the order denying R.A.S.’s petition for discharge lacked findings sufficient to satisfy the due process requirement under Kansas v. Crane, 534 U.S. 407 (2002). View "Matter of R.A.S." on Justia Law

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In 2005, near the end of a five-year sentence for conviction of corruption or solicitation of a minor, the State successfully petitioned to commit T.A.G. as a sexually dangerous individual. He appealed, arguing the findings were insufficient to demonstrate he had serious difficulty controlling his behavior. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed denial of T.A.G.'s petition for discharge because it concurred the findings were insufficient to conclude process requirement had been met under Kansas v. Crane, 534 U.S. 407 (2002). View "Interest of T.A.G." on Justia Law

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James Watson was convicted by jury of continuous sexual abuse of a child in Golden Valley County, North Dakota. He conditionally pled guilty to sexual assault in Hettinger County, and he conditionally pled guilty to continuous sexual abuse of a child in Stark County. Watson argued the district court erred by granting continuances in all three cases and violated his statutory speedy trial rights. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the court did not abuse its discretion by granting the State’s motions for continuances in the Hettinger and Stark County cases. But Watson’s statutory speedy trial right was violated in the Golden Valley County case because trial did not begin within 90 days of Watson’s speedy trial election and the district court did not find good cause for the delay. The Court therefore affirmed the Hettinger and Stark County judgments and reversed the Golden Valley County judgment. View "North Dakota v. Watson" on Justia Law

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Nicholas Morris appealed a district court order denying his application for post-conviction relief. In May 2015, Morris was involved in a physical altercation which resulted in Joey Gaarsland’s death. Morris was charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and one count of murder. On appeal, Morris argued the district court erred in denying his application for post-conviction relief because: (1) accomplice to commit murder was not a cognizable offense, and (2) he was deprived of his right to effective assistance of counsel. He also argued he should have been permitted to withdraw his guilty plea. The north Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s order and held accomplice to commit murder was indeed a cognizable offense, Morris was not deprived of his right to effective assistance of counsel, and he has failed to show a manifest injustice warranting the withdrawal of his guilty plea. View "Morris v. North Dakota" on Justia Law