Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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Russell Craig appealed a trial court's denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea to murder. In 2006, Craig was charged with murder. A year later, he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Craig testified when he arrived at the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCR) he received a case plan stating he was eligible for parole in 20 years based on his life expectancy of 67 years less his then-current age of 44. In 2007 Craig wrote a letter requesting reduction of his sentence. In the letter Craig wrote the district court “Currently on a life sentence [I] have to [s]erve 85 [percent] of 30 years. I would be able to see the p[a]role board in 26.5 years . . . .” The court treated the letter as a motion for reduction of sentence and denied the requested relief. In 2017, the district court clerk sent Craig a letter regarding a statutory change requiring a calculation of life expectancy for life sentences with the possibility of parole. In 2018, Craig filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea because he believed he was eligible for parole after 20 years as outlined on his DOCR case plan which calculated his remaining life expectancy at 23 years, and not 85 percent of his remaining life expectancy of 33.8 years under the State’s calculation based on N.D. Sup.Ct. Admin. R. 51. Craig argues his sentence was illegal, the district court violated the prohibition on ex post facto punishment, and the district court erred by denying Craig’s motion to withdraw his plea. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, finding the evidence established Craig understood his plea deal, including that he had to serve a minimum of 30 years less reduction for good conduct. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding a manifest injustice did not exist. View "North Dakota v. Craig" on Justia Law

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Jeffrey Krogstad was convicted by jury of gross sexual imposition on a six-year-old victim. Krogstad argued on appeal that: (1) admission of video of the victim’s forensic interview violated his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation; (2) the district court abused its discretion in admitting the video under N.D.R.Ev. 803(24); and (3) there was insufficient evidence to sustain the guilty verdict. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Krogstad" on Justia Law

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Frank West appealed after he conditionally pled guilty to possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance. West moved to suppress evidence alleging it was obtained during an unconstitutional search. The district court denied his motion holding the search was a valid probationary search and West lost his opportunity to seek suppression because he did not object at the time of the search. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. View "North Dakota v. West" on Justia Law

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Mohamed Awad appealed a district court order denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea to a charge of knowingly voting when not qualified to do so. On appeal, Awad argued the district court should have allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea because he was not adequately advised under N.D.R.Crim.P. 11(b) of the possible immigration consequences of pleading guilty, and because he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court order. View "North Dakota v. Awad" on Justia Law

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Alex Eggleston appealed a district court’s amended judgment entered after a jury found him guilty of murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Eggleston argued there was insufficient evidence for the jury to find him guilty of murder. Eggleston also contended his sentence was illegal because N.D.C.C. 12.1-32-09.1 and N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 51, which applied to his sentencing, were unconstitutionally vague, and because the district court improperly calculated his life expectancy. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s amended judgment in part, reverse in part, and remand for recalculation of Eggleston’s life expectancy. The Supreme Court determined the district court did not err in dismissing Eggleston’s motion for an acquittal because there was sufficient evidence for the jury to convict Eggleston of murder and for the jury to conclude he was not acting in self-defense. Thus, the district court’s judgment of conviction was affirmed. However, the district court referenced an incorrect life table to compute Eggleston’s remaining life expectancy, thus, the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s amended judgment, and remanded to the district court for a proper computation of Eggleston’s remaining life expectancy consistent with N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 51. View "North Dakota v. Eggleston" on Justia Law

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In early April 2019, Berthold Police Chief Allen Schmidt and Reserve Officer Greg Pinske stopped a car driven by Richard Cook for an unilluminated license plate. At the time of the stop, Pinske was not a licensed peace officer. Officer Pinske approached the car and obtained Cook’s driver’s license. Officer Pinske returned to the squad car with Cook’s license. Officer Pinske did not report to Chief Schmidt that he observed any suspicious behavior by Cook during the initial encounter. Officer Pinske ran a records check using Cook’s driver’s license, which revealed Cook had a 2016 drug conviction. At that point, Chief Schmidt took over the traffic stop. Chief Schmidt approached Cook’s vehicle and explained to Cook that he was performing drug interdiction that evening. Chief Schmidt asked Cook if he could search his car. Cook refused. Chief Schmidt then ordered Cook out of the car so he could perform a canine sniff around the car. The canine alerted to drugs in the car; Cook would ultimately be arrested and charged with several offenses. The State of North Dakota appealed after a district court granted Cook's motion suppressing evidence from the initial stop. Because the district court properly concluded Chief Schmidt’s seizure of Cook was not justified by reasonable suspicion, the Supreme Court affirmed suppression. View "North Dakota v. Cook" 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. In 2015, Caster pleaded guilty to two counts of child neglect or abuse and was sentenced to eighteen months’ probation. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court failed to explain its reasoning in its order. The matter was therefore remanded for further proceedings. View "Caster v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) appealed a district court’s judgment reversing an administrative hearing officer’s decision to revoke Carter Schulke’s driving privileges for a period of three years. On May 11, 2019, following a high-speed pursuit, Schulke was stopped by law enforcement, arrested for fleeing, driving under suspension, reckless endangerment, and possession of drug paraphernalia, handcuffed, and placed in a patrol car. While Schulke was seated in the backseat of the patrol car the arresting officer smelled alcohol emanating from Schulke. Because of safety concerns and Schulke’s behavior, the arresting officer did not conduct field sobriety tests or request an alcohol related screening test at the location of the stop. At the correctional center, the arresting officer requested Schulke perform field sobriety tests. Schulke refused to perform the field sobriety tests. Schulke was then read the implied consent warning for the screening test and asked to submit to a screening test pursuant to N.D.C.C. 39-20-14(1). Schulke refused to submit to the screening test. Schulke was then read the implied consent advisory for an Intoxilyzer breath test pursuant to N.D.C.C. 39-20-01. Schulke refused to take the breath test, became extremely uncooperative, and was eventually placed in confinement. Schulke was informed that in addition to the other charges, he was being arrested for “DUI Refusal.” The NDDOT argued the district court erred in reversing the administrative hearing officer’s determination that Schulke refused an alcohol related screening test in violation of N.D.C.C. 39-20-14(1). The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the administrative hearing officer's determination was supported by a preponderance of the evidence. It therefore reversed the district court's judgment and reinstated the administrative hearing officer's decision. View "Schulke v. NDDOT" on Justia Law

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The State alleged Ibrahim Ahmed Mohammed knocked on E.W.’s apartment door, and when she opened it, forced himself inside. He appealed after a bench trial found him guilty of gross sexual imposition, arguing the district court abused its discretion when it denied his motion for acquittal because the “force” element of the crime was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and the district court improperly reduced the standard for “force” based on the view that E.W. was a vulnerable adult. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Mohammed" on Justia Law

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Blain Ovind appealed after a jury found him guilty of two counts of construction fraud, two counts of acting as a contractor without a license, and one count of disobedience of a judicial order. On appeal, Ovind argued the district court erred by denying his requests for court-appointed counsel, and his convictions should have been reversed because of prosecutorial misconduct. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "North Dakota v. Ovind" on Justia Law