from the District Court of McKenzie County, Northwest
Judicial District, the Honorable Robin A. Schmidt, Judge.
Stephenie L. Davis, McKenzie County Assistant State's
Attorney, for plaintiff and appellant.
L. Nehring (argued) and Whitney P. Skinner (on brief), for
defendant and appellee.
1] The State appeals from a district court order suppressing
evidence seized after a traffic stop. Suppression was based
on the district court's finding that the law relied on by
the stopping officer was unconstitutionally vague. The State
argues the statute is not unconstitutionally vague, the
officer had reasonable and articulable suspicion Patrick
violated the law and the officer's mistake of law was
reasonable. We reverse and remand.
2] Watford City Police Officer Ryan Chaffee stopped Alexander
Patrick because he had more than four white front facing
lights on his truck, which Chaffee believed was a violation
of N.D.C.C. § 39-21-25(2). Chaffee testified
Patrick's vehicle had six front facing lights and the
lights appeared brighter than other vehicles. Patrick's
vehicle had four fog lights and two headlamps. Because of
Patrick's previous contacts with law enforcement, Chaffee
conducted a drug dog sniff on Patrick's vehicle. The dog
alerted Chaffee to the presence of drugs in Patrick's
vehicle. Upon searching the vehicle Chaffee discovered a
loaded handgun, marijuana residue and cocaine. Chaffee
charged Patrick with possessing cocaine with a firearm and
carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle.
3] Patrick moved to suppress the evidence obtained as a
result of the traffic stop and subsequent search, arguing the
stop was invalid because N.D.C.C. § 39-21-25(2) was
unconstitutionally vague. N.D.C.C. § 39-21-25(2) states:
"Whenever a motor vehicle equipped with headlamps as
herein required is also equipped with any auxiliary lamps or
a spot lamp or any other lamp on the front thereof projecting
a beam of intensity greater than three hundred candlepower,
not more than a total of four of any such lamps on the front
of a vehicle may be lighted at any one time when upon a
argued the term "candlepower" used in N.D.C.C.
§ 39-21-25(2) is unconstitutionally vague because it is
obsolete and cannot be defined by reasonable people or
enforced by law enforcement. The State argued although
candlepower no longer is commonly used, it is a quantifiable
term to define the amount of light emitted and provides a
minimal guideline to determine whether a violation of law
4] The district court granted Patrick's motion to
suppress, finding N.D.C.C. § 39-21-25(2)
unconstitutionally vague and that the stop was not supported
by reasonable and articulable suspicion. The State appeals.
5] The central issue is whether the evidence supports
Chaffee's determination he had reasonable suspicion to
believe Patrick was in violation of N.D.C.C. §
39-21-25(2). "Questions of law and the ultimate
conclusion about whether the facts support a reasonable and
articulable suspicion are fully ...