Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Alexander Lail appealed from a criminal judgment entered upon a jury verdict finding him guilty of two counts of attempted murder. Lail argued there was insufficient evidence to support the guilty verdicts. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Lail" on Justia Law

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Gene Hondl appealed from an order that granted the State’s motion to dismiss his “motion for writ of replevin” and dismissed his case with prejudice. On January 23, 2019, Hondl filed a “motion for writ of replevin” to the district court, in addition to filing a notice of motion, motion for evidentiary hearing, motion for appointment of counsel, and a certificate of service. Hondl named the North Dakota and Stark County as defendants (collectively, “the State”), seeking the return of certain personal property seized when he was arrested on drug charges and forfeited in separate civil forfeiture proceedings. Hondl’s certificate of service indicates the documents were served by U.S. Mail on December 28, 2018. On February 19, 2019, a district court entered its order dismissing the matter with prejudice. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court dismissed the case with prejudice without providing any explanation. The Supreme Court therefore vacated the order and remanded for the court to decide the State’s motion to dismiss for insufficiency of service of process and lack of personal jurisdiction. View "Hondl v. State, et al." on Justia Law

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Rodney Chisholm appeals from a district court order summarily dismissing his application for postconviction relief. Chisholm was convicted of murder in 2011 and sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment. Chisholm filed his first application for postconviction relief in 2013. In that application, Chisholm alleged ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. The district court summarily denied Chisholm’s application, and he appealed. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded. On remand, the district court again denied Chisholm’s application and he appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court the second time. In this case, the Supreme Court concluded Chisholm's his claim for ineffective assistance of postconviction counsel was barred under N.D.C.C. 29- 32.1-09(2), and his other claims were barred by res judicata. Therefore, the Court affirmed the summary dismissal of his postconviction relief application. View "Chisholm v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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Jim Wallitsch appeals from the amended judgment arguing the district court erred by not giving an instruction regarding a statement made by a potential juror during voir dire. Wallitsch was charged with aggravated assault and tampering with physical evidence. During voir dire potential jury members were asked if anyone had a problem being a fair and impartial juror. One potential juror, a Homeland Security agent, stated, “I’m fairly certain I’ve arrested your client before.” The person was excused from the panel, the exchange was not discussed further, and the jury subsequently found Wallitsch guilty on both counts. Specifically, Wallitsch argued on appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court the district court obviously erred and reversal was required when, during voir dire, a Homeland Security agent said he previously arrested the defendant and no curative instruction was given to the venire or the jury. Finding the district court did not "obviously err" by not providing a curative instruction regarding the potential juror's comments, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Wallitsch" on Justia Law

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David Mondragon appeals from conditional pleas of guilty to gross sexual imposition and sexual assault. The State filed an information charging Mondragon with class A felony gross sexual imposition and two counts of class C felony sexual assault. Mondragon waived his right to a preliminary hearing and not guilty pleas were entered on all counts. On June 12, 2018, Mondragon filed a request for a speedy trial. At the pretrial conference on July 17, 2018, Mondragon’s counsel suggested a trial date be set “and if we need a continuance, we can request it later.” A trial date was set for August 1, 2, and 3, 2018. Thereafter, in July, August, and December 2018, the State requested three continuances which the district court granted. Mondragon argues the district court erred by granting the State’s requests for continuances, claiming the court denied him his statutory right to a speedy trial. Determining the court's finding of good cause was not arbitrary, unreasonable, or unconscionable, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded Mondragon’s right to a speedy trial was not violated by the continuances, and affirmed the criminal judgment. View "North Dakota v. Mondragon" on Justia Law

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G.L.D. was first civilly committed as a sexually dangerous individual in 2007. G.L.D. petitioned the district court for discharge in April 2016, and a discharge hearing was held in June 2019. At the hearing, Dr. Richard Travis testified for the State. Dr. Travis testified that G.L.D. remains a sexually dangerous individual subject to continued civil commitment. G.L.D. did not call any experts in support of his petition for discharge. At the conclusion of the hearing, the district court orally issued findings of fact and conclusions of law resulting in G.L.D.'s continued commitment. G.L.D. appealed the district court's order denying his petition for discharge from civil commitment. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not make sufficient findings of fact, and remanded for further findings. View "Interest of G.L.D." on Justia Law

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Raymond Voisine appealed a district court order finding he remained a sexually dangerous individual. He argued the district court erred by: (1) granting the State’s request for continuance; (2) not holding a hearing within 365 days of the previous report or within a calendar year; (3) allowing the State to file and rely on an expert’s report that was filed late; and (4) finding by clear and convincing evidence that Voisine remained a sexually dangerous individual. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the dispositive issue was whether clear and convincing evidence existed establishing Voisine remained a sexually dangerous individual. The Court determined the record as a whole did not support the finding by clear and convincing evidence that Voisine remained a sexually dangerous individual. "Limited rule infractions and sporadic progress and participation in treatment relied on in this case do not establish that the risk posed by Voisine is distinguishable 'from the dangerous but typical recidivist in the ordinary criminal case.'" Accordingly, the order denying Voisine's petition for discharge was reversed. View "Interest of Voisine" on Justia Law

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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