Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court

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Melinda Strom appealed an amended criminal judgment and order for restitution. Strom pled guilty to misapplication of entrusted property in excess of $50,000 in violation of N.D.C.C. 12.1-23-07(1). Strom was sentenced to five years, all suspended for three years of supervised probation. Strom argued the district court abused its discretion in awarding restitution because it did not consider her ability to pay as required by N.D.C.C. 12.1-32-08(1). The North Dakota declared the statute unconstitutional in part and affirmed the restitution order and judgment. The Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion in fixing the amount of restitution without regard to the defendant's ability to pay. "To clearly state the scope of this decision, it is necessary to articulate what we do not decide here. In this matter, we examine only an award of restitution and not a contempt hearing or probation revocation for non-payment, and thus we limit consideration of ability to pay only in the context of setting the total amount of restitution. We do not completely preclude consideration of ability to pay. There may be times when such consideration may be appropriate, i.e., when determining the time or manner of payment or whether a defendant's failure to pay is willful." View "North Dakota v. Strom" on Justia Law

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Alexander Pittenger appealed after a jury found him guilty of corruption and solicitation of a minor and from an order denying a motion to dismiss the charge. At the beginning of the trial the prosecutor requested closure of the courtroom during the juvenile complaining witness' testimony because it was "common practice, and it's provided by statute that the courtroom be closed." Pittenger's attorney objected because "my client has a right to an open and public trial." The district court did not conduct a hearing, make findings, or analyze the appropriate factors, and considered only that the complaining witness was a minor. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded this was a structural error that required reversal of the criminal judgment. View "North Dakota v. Pittenger" on Justia Law

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Branden Lyon appealed an amended judgment entered after his convictions for attempted murder, terrorizing, terrorizing-­domestic violence, and illegal possession of a firearm. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court conclude Lyon's sentence was illegal because the district court did not act within statutorily prescribed sentencing limits. The amended judgment was reversed and the case remanded for resentencing. View "North Dakota v. Lyon" on Justia Law

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MyKennah Lott appealed after she was found guilty of preventing arrest following a bench trial. In January 2017, Lott and an acquaintance were found walking on property owned by the Dakota Access Pipeline. Law enforcement personnel approached the pair and Lott began to "step backwards at a fairly brisk pace" while law enforcement gathered more information. Lott was eventually informed she was under arrest for trespassing. Lott resisted arrest, broke free, and eventually had to be taken to the ground in order to be arrested. After a bench trial, Lott was found guilty of preventing arrest. During sentencing, the district court asked Lott's counsel for a sentencing recommendation. Counsel conferred with Lott and requested fines and fees be waived. Nothing in the record indicated Lott was personally addressed and afforded the opportunity to speak on her behalf during the sentencing phase. On appeal of her conviction and sentence, Lott challenged the sufficiency of the evidence and claimed she was improperly denied an opportunity to address the court during sentencing. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, vacated the sentence, and remanded for resentencing. View "North Dakota v. Lott" on Justia Law

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Michael Foster appealed his conviction on one count of conspiracy to commit criminal mischief, one count of criminal mischief, and one count of criminal trespass. On appeal, Foster argued the district court erred in admitting or excluding certain evidence and that there was insufficient evidence to support the criminal mischief and conspiracy convictions. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "North Dakota v. Foster" on Justia Law

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Raymond Christensen appealed his conviction and sentence stemming from charges for leaving the scene of an accident involving injury and aggravated reckless driving. Because the district court substantially relied upon an impermissible factor in sentencing Christensen to jail, the North Dakota Supreme Court vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing. View "North Dakota v. Christensen" on Justia Law

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Joshua Ourada appealed a district court order summarily dismissing his application for post-conviction relief. In June 2017, Ourada pleaded guilty to terrorizing and preventing arrest or discharge of other duties. Ourada was sentenced to three years of imprisonment following his guilty plea. In January 2018, Ourada filed an application for post-conviction relief, raising four issues: (1) an unlawful search; (2) exigent circumstances; (3) a challenge to the chain of custody regarding evidence; and (4) exaggerated charges. The State responded with an answer asserting Ourada waived the four issues stated in his application because all nonjurisdictional defects alleged to have occurred prior to a voluntary guilty plea are waived. The State's answer also included a request for summary disposition citing N.D.C.C. 29-32.1-09(3). Twelve days later, the district court summarily dismissed Ourada's application without a response from Ourada. Ourada asserts he was not provided with proper notice prior to summary dismissal of his application. Due process, even in the post-conviction setting, requires notice and an opportunity to be heard. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded that because Ourada's application for post-conviction relief was summarily dismissed subsequent to the State's response and without proper notice, summary dismissal was not appropriate. The order dismissing the application for post-conviction relief was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Ourada v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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Rocky Stein appealed a district court's order summarily dismissing his petition for post-conviction relief. Stein was the driver of one of two vehicles involved in an accident that occurred in September 2013. The driver of the other vehicle died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident. Stein was subsequently charged with criminal vehicular homicide. While represented by counsel, Stein pleaded guilty to an amended charge of manslaughter. Stein was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment with three years suspended for a period of five years. In his petition for post-conviction relief, Stein alleged various errors made by his attorney. Stein argued to the North Dakota Supreme Court he received ineffective assistance of counsel prior to his guilty plea. Stein contended he was not informed he would be required to serve 85 percent of any period of incarceration imposed as part of his sentence and that his sentence was likely to be limited to probation. Stein also stated in his affidavit, "I would not have pled guilty had I . . . [understood] the implications of the manslaughter plea . . . ." The Supreme Court determined the district court did not address Stein's allegation he was not informed he would be required to serve 85 percent of any period of incarceration imposed as part of his sentence, and that had he been informed of that requirement, he would not have pled guilty. Therefore, the case was remanded for an evidentiary hearing regarding that issue. The Court affirmed summary dismissal as to all other issues, and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Stein v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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Dalyn Vollrath appealed a district court order requiring him to pay Pembina County, North Dakota $5,000 for guardian ad litem fees. Because the order was issued after the conviction was final and the issue was not preserved, the North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court lacked jurisdiction to amend the sentence. The Court, therefore, vacated the order requiring payment of guardian ad litem fees. View "North Dakota v. Vollrath" on Justia Law

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Anquine White appealed a district court judgment after a jury found him guilty of drug, paraphernalia and firearm possession. White argued officers conducted a warrantless, suspicionless probationary search and violated his constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. The North Dakota Supreme Court found reasonable suspicion of White's roommate violating probation was the support for the initial search of the home, and discovery of evidence in plain view permissibly expanded the search. View "North Dakota v. White" on Justia Law