from the District Court of McLean County, South Central
Judicial District, the Honorable John W. Grinsteiner, Judge.
Erickson, State's Attorney, Washburn, ND, for plaintiff
and appellant; submitted on brief.
C. Suhr, Bismarck, ND, for defendant and appellee; submitted
W. VandeWalle, C.J., Carol Ronning Kapsner, Lisa Fair
McEvers, Dale V. Sandstrom, Daniel J. Crothers.
[¶1] The State appealed a district court
order suppressing evidence obtained from a traffic stop of
John Hirschkorn. We reverse and remand.
[¶2] Hirschkorn moved to suppress evidence
obtained in a traffic stop resulting in his arrest for
driving under the influence. According to testimony at the
suppression hearing, a McLean County Sheriff's deputy
responded to reported drug use in a Turtle Lake alley. The
deputy testified the alley was paved and maintained by the
City of Turtle Lake. A second deputy testified the alley was
paved and gravel in part, but was nonetheless public. Upon
surveiling the area, the first deputy testified to observing
a vehicle exit the alley without signaling before turning.
Believing this failure was a traffic violation, the deputy
radioed the second deputy to stop the vehicle. After
executing the stop, the second deputy arrested Hirschkorn.
[¶3] Hirschkorn moved to suppress evidence
obtained from the stop, arguing no reasonable suspicion
justified the stop because the law does not require drivers
to signal prior to exiting alleys. Following the suppression
hearing, the district court found the first deputy "
observed a pickup emerge from an alley without using a turn
signal." After noting drivers must generally signal
before turning, the court also noted the statutory section
specifically regulating driver conduct while exiting alleys
does not contain this requirement. The court found this
specific section, and its lack of a requirement to signal,
took precedence over the general requirement to signal,
meaning drivers do not have to signal prior to exiting
alleys. Because Hirschkorn's failure to signal was not a
traffic violation, the district court concluded no reasonable
suspicion justified the traffic stop. The court accordingly
suppressed evidence resulting from the stop.
[¶4] On appeal, the State argues the
district court erred in suppressing evidence from the traffic
stop because the court misinterpreted the law by concluding
the law does not require drivers to signal prior to exiting
alleys. " Questions of law and the ultimate conclusion
about whether the facts support a reasonable and articulable
suspicion are fully reviewable on appeal." State v.
Smith, 2005 ND 21, ¶ 11, 691 N.W.2d 203.
[¶5] As presented by the parties, this
appeal concerns interpreting whether drivers must signal
prior to exiting alleys. Statutory interpretation is a
question of law fully reviewable on appeal. VND, LLC v.
Leevers Foods, Inc., 2003 ND 198, ¶ 9, 672 N.W.2d
445. Various canons of statutory construction guide our
interpretation of the statutes at issue here. Words in a
statute are given their plain, ordinary, and commonly
understood meaning unless defined by statute or unless a
contrary intention plainly appears. N.D.C.C. § 1-02-02.
Statutes are construed as a whole and are harmonized to give
meaning to related provisions. N.D.C.C. § 1-02-07.
" Words and phrases must be construed according to the
context and the rules of grammar and the approved usage of
the language." N.D.C.C. § 1-02-03.
[¶6] Chapter 39-10, N.D.C.C., governs "
the operation of vehicles upon highways or other places open
to the public for the operation of vehicles . . . ."
N.D.C.C. § 39-10-01(1). Highways generally include
" every way publicly maintained when any part thereof is
open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular
travel . . . ." N.D.C.C. § 39-01-01(29). Within
N.D.C.C. ch. 39-10, statutory provisions regulating highways
generally apply " except ...