Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Richard Powley appealed after a jury found him guilty of three counts of gross sexual imposition (GSI). Powley was on parole at the time of his arrest. Detectives believed there was evidence of communications between Powley and the victim of the aggravated assault on Powley’s cell phone. As part of the warrantless search of Powley’s cell phone, detectives discovered videos of Powley sexually assaulting an adult woman. These videos led to the GSI charges. On appeal, Powley argued the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained the warrantless search of his cell phone. The North Dakota Supreme Court had held previously that warrantless searches of supervised probationers based on reasonable suspicion were not unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment. "'By virtue of their status alone, parolees have 'everely diminished expectations of privacy.'" The Court concluded the district court did not err in denying Powley’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the warrantless search of his cell phone because the search of Powley’s cell phone was not in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. View "North Dakota v. Powley" on Justia Law

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Travis Yoney appealed a district court amended judgment after a jury found him guilty of attempted murder, burglary, reckless endangerment, and terrorizing. According to testimony at trial, in August 2018 Yoney fired a .22 caliber rifle into John and Jane Doe’s house. He then broke into the house and pointed the rifle at John Doe. John Doe tackled Yoney, and the rifle fired into the ceiling. Yoney argued on appeal that the jury convicted him of a non-cognizable offense, attempt to knowingly commit murder, and the State did not provide evidence he threatened to commit a crime. Further, he contended the jury gave an inconsistent, compromised verdict by finding him guilty of attempted murder and reckless endangerment. He claimed the evidence may support either charge individually, but it could not support the same conduct with different culpabilities for the same victim, John Doe. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed Yoney's conviction. View "North Dakota v. Yoney" on Justia Law

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The State appealed the suppression of evidence in criminal proceedings initiated against Jordan Selzler and Kelsey Jankowski. The criminal charges against Selzler and Jankowski stemmed from evidence gathered during the same traffic stop, the hearing on the motions to suppress evidence was held jointly, and the cases were consolidated for purposes of appeal. The State argued the district court incorrectly found the traffic stop was unlawful because law enforcement lacked reasonable suspicion for the stop. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the suppression of the evidence gathered after the traffic stop. View "North Dakota v. Selzler" on Justia Law

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Tara Soucy appealed after a jury found her guilty of child neglect. On appeal, Soucy argued the district court erred by refusing to take judicial notice of a related conviction of the children’s father. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to take judicial notice. Though the Court affirmed the conviction, it remanded for the trial court to correct the judgment to accurately reflect the statutory citation for child neglect. View "North Dakota v. Soucy" on Justia Law

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Anthony Washington appealed a district court's judgment entered following Washington’s conditional guilty pleas to fleeing from a law enforcement officer and preventing arrest. Washington was stopped for speeding. During the traffic stop, at the request of the officer, Washington produced a Michigan driver’s license. While producing his driver’s license Washington informed the officer his license had recently been reinstated, explained the Michigan records may not have been up-to-date, and noted the records may not reflect the reinstatement of his license. After being informed Washington’s driving privileges were under suspension, the officer returned to Washington’s vehicle to place him under arrest for driving with a suspended license. Washington again tried to explain his belief his license was valid. After an unsuccessful attempt to convince the officer his license was valid, Washington fled the scene. Washington argued on appeal that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence because his arrest was illegal. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Washington" on Justia Law

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James McGowen, a/k/a James McGowan, appeals from the amended criminal judgment finding him guilty of two counts of simple assault on a corrections officer and ordering $1,855.31 in restitution. McGowen was brought from a holding cell at the Burleigh-Morton County Detention Center into the booking area. McGowen became angry and agitated. The two correctional officers walked around the corner to assist the booking officer, and one tried to restrain McGowen. The officer felt something hit him in the face and believed McGowen punched him. The other officer tackled McGowen to the ground, while McGowen was still attacking the first officer. On the ground, McGowan continued to flail and swing punches. McGowen argues evidence was insufficient to convict him, and the district court abused its discretion by continuing the restitution hearing, and by ordering $1,855.31 in restitution. View "North Dakota v. McGowen" on Justia Law

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Joey Wayland appealed after he was convicted by jury of Theft of Property and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Wayland contended his case should have been dismissed because his right to a speedy trial was violated by a continuance of his trial from March 11, 2019 to April 8, 2019. Wayland also contended the district court violated his right to remain silent by ordering him to submit to a mental health evaluation. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Wayland" on Justia Law

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Kevin Michel was convicted by jury of knowingly receiving stolen property. Jamestown Police began investigating theft of tires from Northwest Tire in October 2017. About ten months later, Thomas Melland and Andrew Heckelsmiller became suspects in the investigation. Heckelsmiller told police he had sold stolen tires to Michel. In August 2018, Detective LeRoy Gross spoke with Michel about the stolen tires. Michel acknowledged he had bought tires from Heckelsmiller and Melland. Michel also told Detective Gross he stopped buying tires from Heckelsmiller and Melland after seeing a Facebook post from Northwest Tire offering a $500 reward for information regarding stolen tires. Detective Gross told Michel, “There’s going to be a lot of restitution these two boys are going to have to come up with unless we can get some tires back.” Michel said he had sold several of the tires but still had some of them. Michel turned over seven new tires to Detective Gross. Representatives from Northwest Tire and J&L Service identified the tires as some of those stolen from their shops. During the jury’s deliberations, the jury submitted a note with written questions to the court. Michel argued on appeal the district court erred by not specifically answering the jury’s questions and instead referring them to the existing jury instructions. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the criminal judgment, except as to the award of restitution. The award was reversed because the district court awarded more than what was required to make the victims whole. The matter was remanded for a redetermination of restitution. View "North Dakota v. Michel" on Justia Law

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Richard Dodge appealed from a district court order denying his application for post-conviction relief. Dodge was charged with five felonies and a misdemeanor in December 2015. Dodge was appointed counsel. In April 2016, Dodge’s counsel moved the court to withdraw because the attorney-client relationship was “irreparably broken and rendered unreasonably difficult.” The court granted the motion, and Dodge was appointed substitute counsel in May 2016. In July 2016, Dodge himself filed a “motion to dismiss counsel.” The court denied Dodge’s motion. Five months after the deadline for motions and plea agreements, Dodge's counsel sought to have Dodge submit to a psychiatric examination. This request was denied, the trial court found no evidence, and the the court itself made no observations, that Dodge was incompetent to stand trial. After this denial, Dodge himself again moved to dismiss his trial counsel, and due to the allegations Dodge made in his motion, counsel moved to withdraw. The trial court denied both motions, and instead, required the attorney to appear as standby counsel and assist Dodge during trial if requested, but relieved him of any further obligations to consult with Dodge. The case proceeded to trial. At the beginning of trial, the court gave Dodge the option of representing himself or having his attorney represent him. Dodge chose to have his attorney represent him. Because his attorney had not prepared for trial and had no communication with Dodge since he moved to withdraw, Dodge’s attorney asked for a brief recess to consult with Dodge. During the recess, a settlement was reached. Dodge agreed to enter Alford pleas on all counts, waived a presentence investigation, and agreed to be sentenced immediately after entering his pleas. Dodge was immediately sentenced following his guilty pleas, and thereafter sought post-conviction relief on grounds he was not competent to enter his pleas, and that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court’s finding that Dodge was competent when he entered his pleas was not clearly erroneous, and disposed of his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. View "Dodge v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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Larry Hewitt appealed a district court judgment affirming the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s revocation of his driving privileges. Hewitt claimed the Department’s hearing file was improperly admitted at the administrative hearing. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the hearing file was properly admitted as a self-authenticating copy of an official record. View "Hewitt v. NDDOT" on Justia Law