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State v. Schmidt

Supreme Court of North Dakota

September 15, 2016

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Deven James Schmidt, Defendant and Appellant

         Appeals from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Sonna M. Anderson, Judge.

          Tessa M. Vaagen, Assistant State's Attorney, Burleigh County State's Attorney, for plaintiff and appellee.

          Danny L. Herbel, The Regency Business Center, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          McEvers, Justice.

         [¶ 1] In consolidated appeals, Deven Schmidt appeals from district court orders deferring imposition of sentence after he conditionally pled guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia and conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance. Schmidt argues the district court erred in denying his motions to suppress evidence he claims was obtained in violation of his rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. We affirm, concluding the district court properly denied Schmidt's motion to suppress evidence.

         I

         [¶ 2] In March 2014, a law officer served a misdemeanor bench warrant on Devin Lavallie, Deven Schmidt's roommate. Schmidt answered the door and informed the officer that Lavallie was sleeping inside the residence. The officer followed Schmidt inside the residence to Lavallie's bedroom, while another officer remained at the door. Schmidt went into his bedroom and closed the door while the officer executed the bench warrant on Lavallie. During Lavallie's arrest, the officer observed drug paraphernalia in plain view in Lavallie's bedroom. The officer placed Lavallie under arrest, moved him into the living room, and handcuffed him. The officer testified he returned to Schmidt's bedroom, entered the room, handcuffed Schmidt, and took him to the living room for the safety of those present. The officer informed Schmidt he was being detained until officers could figure out what was going on. The officer then observed drug paraphernalia in the living room and contacted the Task Force for assistance.

         [¶ 3] The officer requested and obtained written and verbal consent from Schmidt and Lavallie to search the residence. After obtaining written consent to search the residence, the officer found paraphernalia in Schmidt's bedroom.

         [¶ 4] The State charged Schmidt with possession of drug paraphernalia. Schmidt moved to suppress evidence in connection with the charge, alleging the officer did not have authority or consent to enter the residence to execute the bench warrant. The district court suppressed evidence obtained from the search, and the State appealed.

         [¶ 5] During the pendency of the appeal, the State charged Schmidt with conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance. This Court reversed the district court's suppression order in State v. Schmidt, 2015 ND 134, ¶ 11, 864 N.W.2d 265 ("Schmidt I"), concluding the officer, having a reasonable belief that Lavallie was inside, had legal authority under the misdemeanor bench warrant to enter the residence to execute the warrant, and we remanded for additional proceedings.

         [¶ 6] On remand, Schmidt moved to suppress evidence in connection with both charges. Schmidt argued the officer violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures by opening his bedroom door, removing him, and moving him to the livingroom. Schmidt also argued his consent to search the residence was coerced. The district court denied Schmidt's motion to suppress. Schmidt entered conditional guilty pleas to both charges, reserving his right to appeal the district court's denial of his motions to suppress the evidence seized. The district court entered an order deferring imposition of sentence on each charge. Schmidt appealed from both orders deferring imposition of sentence.

         II

         [¶ 7] In Schmidt I, we outlined our standard for reviewing a district court's determination on a motion to suppress evidence:

When reviewing a district court's ruling on a motion to suppress evidence, this Court defers to a trial court's findings of fact, and conflicts in testimony are resolved in favor of affirmance because we recognize the trial court is in a superior position to assess the credibility of witnesses and weigh evidence. State v. Gasal, 2015 ND 43, ¶ 6, 859 N.W.2d 914. "A district court's findings of fact on a motion to suppress will not be reversed if there is sufficient competent evidence fairly capable of supporting the court's findings, and the decision is not contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence." State v. DeCoteau, 1999 ND 77, ¶ 6, 592 N.W.2d 579. "Questions of law are fully reviewable on appeal, and whether a finding of fact meets a legal standard is a question of law." State v. Graf, 2006 ND 196, ¶ 7, 721 N.W.2d 381.

2015 ND 134, ¶ 5, 864 N.W.2d 265.

         [¶ 8] "The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 8 of the North Dakota Constitution protect individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures." State v. Gagnon, 2012 ND 198, ¶ 8, 821 N.W.2d 373. A person alleging a Fourth Amendment violation has an initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of an illegal search or seizure. State v. Lanctot, 1998 ND 216, ¶ 8, 587 N.W.2d 568; City of Fargo v. Sivertson, 1997 ND 204, ¶ 6, 571 N.W.2d 137. "However, after the defendant has made a prima facie case, the burden of persuasion is shifted to the State to justify its actions." Sivertson, at ¶ 6. "The movant initially has the burden to make specific allegations of illegality and to produce evidence to persuade the court the evidence should be suppressed." State v. Pogue, 215 ND 211, ¶ 10, 868 N.W.2d 522 (citing State v. Glaesman, 545 N.W.2d 178, 182 n.1 (N.D. 1996). Whether law enforcement violated constitutional prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure is a question of law. State v. Uran, 2008 ND 223, ¶ 5, 758 N.W.2d 727.

         A

         [¶ 9] On appeal, Schmidt argues his constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures was violated; therefore, the district court erred by not suppressing all evidence acquired after the officer detained Schmidt. Specifically, Schmidt argues the officer illegally seized him by ordering him out of the room, handcuffing him, and transporting him to the living room.

         [¶ 10] "To stop a person for investigative purposes, an officer must have an articulable and reasonable suspicion that a law has been or is being violated." State v. Parizek, 2004 ND 78, ¶ 9, 678 N.W.2d 154. "In determining whether an investigative stop is valid, we use an objective standard and look to the totality of the circumstances." Id. "The question is whether a reasonable person in the officer's position would be justified by some objective ...


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