Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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K.V. appealed a juvenile court memorandum opinion, issued after remand, that denied his motion to suppress evidence. K.V. was charged and adjudicated a delinquent child for possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia in January 2019. K.V. moved to suppress the evidence gathered after the stop. Following a hearing on the motion to suppress, the juvenile court issued an order denying K.V.’s motion. K.V. appealed, arguing the warrantless search violated the Fourth Amendment. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded for reconsideration because the juvenile court did not make specific findings on the reasonableness of the pat down and did not identify what exception to the warrant requirement justified the search. Following remand, the juvenile court issued the memorandum opinion at issue here. The court concluded the pat down was justified based on officer safety, but determined the further search was not supported by the record for officer safety, because the officer did not identify what he felt during the pat down. However, relying on precedent from another jurisdiction that did not require individualized suspicion to search a passenger when the odor of marijuana is emanating from a vehicle, the court found, that based on what he saw, heard and smelled, the officer believed he had probable cause to search K.V. for marijuana and related paraphernalia. The court concluded, “based on the totality of the circumstances that Officer Engen had probable cause to search the person of K.V. for illegal drugs and the search was legal.” The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the juvenile court erred in concluding the officers had probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of K.V. under the totality of the circumstances, and reversed the juvenile court’s memorandum opinion denying K.V.’s motion to suppress and the order adjudicating K.V. a delinquent child. View "Interest of K.V." on Justia Law

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In early 2019, Devils Lake Police Officer Gilbertson was dispatched on a report of a possibly impaired driver. Gilbertson pulled the vehicle over and as he reached the back of the vehicle, the vehicle fled the scene. Gilbertson pursued; another officer attempted to deploy road spikes. The vehicle avoided the spikes and zig-zagged through a field until it became stuck in the snow. When the occupants did not leave the vehicle, Gilbertson approached the vehicle, reached in, put it in park, smelling a strong odor of marijuana. After removing and arresting the driver, officers removed passenger, K.V. Another responding officer, Officer Engen, Engen did a pat down search of K.V. and found drug paraphernalia, a bong, and a bag of meth in K.V.’s jacket. Engen averred he patted down K.V. to search for weapons as a safety issue and to look for illegal drugs. K.V. was alleged to be a delinquent child, charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. K.V. filed a motion to suppress, contending there was no exception for the warrantless search and the search was prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. The juvenile court denied the motion to suppress on the record, finding: “There was marijuana in the vehicle. You were in the vehicle [K.V.]. Once [the officers] establish that they had the smell of marijuana in the vehicle, they had the right to search you and they found the methamphetamine in the coat pocket that you were wearing.” The court denied K.V.’s renewed motion to suppress at the adjudication hearing. K.V. was adjudicated a delinquent child for possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia. Although the juvenile court court received testimony about the officers’ concern for their safety and the smell of marijuana, the North Dakota Supreme Court found the juvenile court did not make specific findings on the reasonableness of the pat down or subsequent search. "It did not identify which exception to the warrant requirement justified the search in its conclusions of law. We are unable to understand the court’s reasoning for its decision and are left to speculate as to the law and facts the court relied on in denying the motion to suppress." Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for reconsideration of the suppression order. View "Interest of K.V." on Justia Law

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A district court certified a question of law to the North Dakota Supreme Court on whether a married person under the age of eighteen was considered a “child” under the Juvenile Court Act. G.C.H. was charged with five crimes which allegedly occurred when G.C.H. was sixteen and seventeen years old. G.C.H. was married when the alleged crimes occurred and still was married. G.C.H. moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to his age, claiming the proper jurisdiction was in juvenile court. The district court denied the motion, finding G.C.H. was not a child under North Dakota law because he was married. The North Dakota Supreme Court has discretion to hear certified questions of law by the district court and may refuse to consider a certified question if it is frivolous, interlocutory in nature, or not dispositive of the issues before the district court. Here, neither a negative nor affirmative answer would be dispositive of the case. "If G.C.H. is a child under N.D.C.C. 27-20-02(4), the juvenile court still would need to determine whether he was delinquent. If G.C.H. is not a child under N.D.C.C. 27-20-02(4), a jury still would need to determine if G.C.H. is guilty of the alleged crimes. Therefore, the certified question is not determinative of the proceedings. We decline to answer the certified question." Notwithstanding the Supreme Court's declination to answering the certified question, it concluded this case justified exercising supervisory jurisdiction. The district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over G.C.H. because was a “child” under N.D.C.C. 27-20-02(4)(b). The Supreme Court exercised its supervisory jurisdiction and reversed and remanded with directions to vacate the judgment and dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "North Dakota v. G.C.H." on Justia Law

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K.V.'s parents, A.V. and E.D., appealed a juvenile court order K.V. committed the delinquent acts of criminal trespass, fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer, and reckless driving. They argued N.D.C.C. 12.1-22-03(3)(b) was void for vagueness and insufficient evidence supported finding K.V. committed criminal trespass, fled or attempted to elude a police officer, and drove recklessly. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court determined that because the constitutional argument was not raised in the juvenile court and K.V. did not argue obvious error, the argument was forfeited. With regard to the trespassing charge, the Supreme Court determined an element of the offense was not proven, making the juvenile court’s finding K.V. committed criminal trespass is not supported by the evidence. That finding of delinquency was reversed. The juvenile court’s finding K.V. committed the delinquent acts of fleeing or attempting to elude a peace officer and reckless driving were supported by the evidence and, therefore, not clearly erroneous. The Court therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for entry of an appropriate order consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion. View "Interest of K.V." on Justia Law

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Barry Garcia appealed a district court's denial of his request for a new trial and determining N.D.C.C. 12.1-32-13.1 did not apply to his criminal sentence. In 1996, Garcia was found guilty of the offense of murder, committed while he was a juvenile, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. In 2016, Garcia filed a petition for post-conviction relief arguing that imposing a sentence of life without parole on a juvenile violated the constitutional standards set forth by the United States Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016). While Garcia’s appeal was pending, the North Dakota legislature passed HB 1195, which was enacted on April 17, 2017 as N.D.C.C. 12.1-32-13.1 and effective August 1, 2017. The North Dakota Supreme Court declined to rule on Garcia’s request to apply N.D.C.C. 12.1-32-13.1 because it had not been raised at the district court, and ruled without remanding the issue. Following the appeal of the 2016 denial of post-conviction relief, Garcia filed a motion for a new trial in the district court. The court found that a motion for a new trial was not the correct vehicle for requesting relief under N.D.C.C. 12.1-32-13.1, but pursuant to the consent of both parties, agreed to consider whether N.D.C.C. 12.1-32-13.1 applied to Garcia. After a hearing, the court issued an order denying the motion for a new trial and finding N.D.C.C. 12.1-32-13.1 did not apply. The Supreme Court determined Garcia’s conviction was final before the statute’s effective date; granting his requested relief would require retroactive application of the statute and would constitute an infringement on the executive pardoning power. Furthermore, Garcia failed to provide newly discovered evidence to support his motion for a new trial. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order. View "Garcia v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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M.M. appeals from a juvenile court order denying his motion to dismiss a juvenile petition pertaining to an underlying juvenile delinquency case after entering conditional admissions to committing delinquent acts of simple assault and contact by bodily fluids. On October 17, 2017, a juvenile petition was filed with the juvenile court. At the time the juvenile petition was filed, M.M. resided at the Youth Correctional Center (“YCC”). M.M. made his initial appearance on November 7, 2017. A pretrial conference was scheduled for November 14, 2017, and trial was set for November 27, 2017. On November 21, 2017, M.M. moved to dismiss the petition, arguing the hearing on the petition was not held within the required time limits for a child in detention. M.M. simultaneously requested a continuance in order to allow him to complete discovery. The State opposed the motion to dismiss, arguing the motion itself was untimely and that M.M. was not a child in detention. The juvenile court denied M.M.’s motion to dismiss but granted his request for a continuance, delaying the trial an additional month. On January 16, 2018, M.M. admitted to the allegations of delinquent acts on a conditional basis, preserving his right to appeal. M.M. argued the juvenile court erred by denying his motion to dismiss because the hearing on the petition was not held within 30 days of the filing of the petition. M.M. conceded at oral argument that he was no longer contesting a violation regarding the timing of the initial hearing on the petition. The North Dakota Supreme Court found M.M.’s initial and adjudicative hearings were scheduled within time constraints prescribed by North Dakota Rules of Juvenile Procedure, therefore affirming the juvenile court order denying his motion to dismiss. View "Interest of M.M." on Justia Law

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C.B. appealed a juvenile court order adopting a judicial referee's order finding C.B. failed to register as a sex offender. In June 2012, C.B. pled guilty to "assault IV with sexual motivation" in Washington state. The adjudication and disposition order did not require C.B. to register as a sex offender in Washington. In the fall of 2012, C.B. moved to North Dakota with his father. At the request of the juvenile court, C.B. registered as a sex offender in North Dakota in November 2013. In May 2015, C.B. updated his registration at the Bismarck Police Department. After updating his registration, an assistant Burleigh County state's attorney issued a juvenile petition to C.B. for committing the delinquent act of failure to register as a sex offender. The petition alleged C.B. failed to timely "alert law enforcement to a new job, a new place of residence, a telephone number or his facebook account." C.B. moved to dismiss the petition, arguing he should not be required to register. At an October 2015 hearing on the motion, an assistant attorney general testified C.B.'s assault IV with sexual motivation in Washington was equivalent to a class A misdemeanor sexual offense in North Dakota that required registration. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judicial referee stated he was dismissing the petition, and issued an order of dismissal. Shortly thereafter, the referee rescinded the order of dismissal, stating he decided the motion wrongly due to a legal error. The judicial referee provided notice to the parties the same day that they had the right to have the order reviewed by a juvenile court judge if the request was made within seven days. C.B. did not request review of the order. C.B. again moved to dismiss the petition in November 2015, arguing the judicial referee exceeded his authority when he rescinded the order dismissing the petition. The referee denied the motion. C.B. sought review of the referee's decision from the juvenile court. The juvenile court adopted the referee's decision denying the motion. C.B. filed another motion to dismiss in December 2015, arguing the State failed to give full faith and credit to the Washington order that did not require C.B. to register as a sex offender. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed: although C.B. was not required to register as a sex offender in Washington, Full Faith and Credit does not prohibit North Dakota from requiring C.B. to register. View "Interest of C.B." on Justia Law

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Barry Garcia appealed a district court order summarily dismissing his application for post-conviction relief. A juvenile petition was filed alleging Garcia had committed murder, attempted robbery, aggravated assault, and criminal street gang crime. At the State's request, the court transferred Garcia to adult court for trial. At trial, the district court dismissed the robbery and criminal street gang charges. The jury found Garcia guilty of murder, a class AA felony, and aggravated assault, a class C felony. After a sentencing hearing, the district court sentenced Garcia to life imprisonment without parole on the murder conviction, and to a concurrent five years' imprisonment on the aggravated assault conviction. Garcia appealed, arguing his sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court's 1996 sentencing of Garcia to life imprisonment without parole did not violate the Eighth Amendment. The Court affirmed the district court's order summarily dismissing Garcia's application for post-conviction relief. View "Garcia v. North Dakota" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a juvenile court order adopting a judicial referee's findings of fact and order dismissing the State's petition alleging M.H.P. was a delinquent child. The State filed a petition alleging M.H.P. was a delinquent child who committed gross sexual imposition. The judicial referee found M.H.P. was not in need of treatment or rehabilitation as a delinquent child. The judicial referee explained he previously found beyond a reasonable doubt that M.H.P. committed the delinquent act of gross sexual imposition and stated, "Although this fact alone would be sufficient to sustain a finding of a need for treatment and rehabilitation, there was a substantial amount of evidence to the contrary." Based on these findings, the judicial referee dismissed the petition. The juvenile court adopted the judicial referee's findings and order, dismissed the proceeding and concluded the issue of M.H.P. registering as a sexual offender did not need to be addressed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution barred the State from appealing the juvenile court's order. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the dismissal of the juvenile court's findings. View "Interest of M.H.P." on Justia Law

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Defendant Christian Antonio Alaniz, Jr., appealed an order deferring imposition of sentence entered after he conditionally pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Defendant argued the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence because there was not probable cause to justify the search of his person and the exception to the probable cause requirement for warrantless searches by school officials did not apply. Troy Vanyo was a police officer with the Grand Forks Police Department and was assigned to work as a school resource officer at a high school in Grand Forks. Vanyo had received information about possible drug use involving students in an area approximately a block and a half from the high school. One of the students was later identified as Defendant. The students walked to a town square area and Vanyo followed in his patrol car. Vanyo testified the students were seated when they saw him, stood up, and quickly walked toward a stage area in the town square. Later, Vanyo observed Defendant waiting to talk to the attendance secretary and he informed the school principal that Defendant was the other individual he observed in the town square and suspected was involved in drug activity. The principal took Defendant into a detention room and Vanyo followed them. Vanyo testified the principal questioned Defendant, Vanyo testified he told Defendant something like "if you have anything on you, you need to lay it on the table now." Defendant emptied his pockets, which contained a glass pipe and synthetic marijuana. In moving to suppress the evidence, Defendant argued the police failed to advise him of his rights under "Miranda v. Arizona," (384 U.S. 436 (1966)), there was not probable cause justifying the search of his person, and the exception to the probable cause requirement for searches by school officials did not apply. The district court denied the motion, ruling the reasonableness standard for searches by school officials applied and the search was reasonable. Defendant then entered a conditional guilty plea and reserved his right to appeal the court's denial of his suppression motion. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the search was not excessively intrusive in light of Defendant's age, gender, and nature of the suspicion. View "North Dakota v. Alaniz" on Justia Law