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State v. Gray

Supreme Court of North Dakota

April 25, 2017

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
David B. Gray, Defendant and Appellant

         Appeal from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Thomas J. Schneider, Judge.

          Ryan A. Keefe, Assistant State's Attorney, Burleigh County Courthouse, for plaintiff and appellee; on brief.

          David B. Gray, self-represented, defendant and appellant; on brief.

          OPINION

          McEvers, Justice.

         [¶ 1] David Gray appeals from a judgment entered after a jury found him guilty of disorderly conduct under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01(1)(h). Gray, self-represented, argues the district court erred by not ruling on his motions to dismiss; N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01 should not apply because he was engaged in a constitutionally-protected activity; the complaint against him was "illegal;" N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01 is unconstitutional for vagueness; there is insufficient evidence to uphold the jury verdict; and the district court erred in denying his motion to correct an illegal sentence. We affirm the judgment.

         I

         [¶ 2] The State charged Gray with disorderly conduct under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01(1)(h) for engaging in "harassing conduct by means of intrusive or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that are intended to adversely affect the safety, security, or privacy of another person." The State filed an affidavit from a Burleigh County deputy containing the facts and circumstances surrounding Gray's disorderly conduct charge with the complaint.

         [¶ 3] According to the affidavit, on September 12, 2015, a Burleigh County deputy responded to a report of possible harassment at Ronda and Terry Berg's residence. The Bergs informed the deputy they observed their neighbor, Gray, on numerous occasions trying to look into the Bergs' residence with binoculars, and they showed the deputy pictures of Gray standing on the property line watching their home. The Bergs informed the deputy they were afraid in their home based on Gray's actions. Ronda Berg informed the deputy that she has to "constantly keep her shades closed, and that she is afraid to go outside her own home." The deputy spoke to Gray about these issues. Gray became upset with the deputy and started yelling at him. Gray admitted to watching the Bergs' windows with binoculars claiming he did so because he was afraid that someone in the Bergs' home would try to shoot him. Gray told the deputy he needs "boots on the ground so they don't overrun my territory." The deputy told Gray that the issues with the Bergs needed to stop. Gray replied "[n]o, it's going to continue."

         [¶ 4] Trial was scheduled for July 26, 2016. Gray filed two motions to dismiss the morning of trial. In his motions, Gray argued the complaint was "illegal" and he raised affirmative defenses to the disorderly conduct charge, including that N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01 should not apply because he was engaged in a constitutionally-protected activity under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01(2). The record on appeal does not contain the district court's ruling on the motions to dismiss, because Gray did not file a transcript. A jury convicted Gray of disorderly conduct. After trial, Gray moved to correct an illegal sentence under N.D.R.Crim.P. 35. Gray made a litany of arguments including the complaint was "not a legal complaint, " the State violated his Sixth Amendment right "to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, " and N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01 should not apply because he was engaged in a constitutionally-protected activity under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01(2). The district court denied Gray's Rule 35 motion, concluding "the Court finds the defendant's motion to be frivolous and meritless." Gray appeals.

         II

         [¶ 5] Gray argues the district court erred in failing to rule on his motions to dismiss filed July 26, 2016, the day of trial. Gray moved to dismiss, raising several defenses to the disorderly conduct charge, including that N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01 should not apply because he was engaged in a constitutionally-protected activity under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-31-01(2). Gray also argued there was a defect in the prosecution, and the complaint against him was "illegal, " for failure to comply with N.D.R.Crim.P. 3.

         [¶ 6] In reviewing a district court's ruling on a motion to dismiss, we "defer to the district court's findings of fact and resolve conflicts in testimony in favor of affirmance." State v. Zink, 2010 ND 230, ¶ 5, 791 N.W.2d 161. "We affirm the district court's decision unless we conclude there is insufficient competent evidence to support the decision, or unless the decision goes against the manifest weight of the evidence." Id. This Court's review is limited to only those issues raised to the district court. Id.

         [¶ 7] In both his motion to dismiss and on appeal to this Court, Gray argues the complaint did not comply with N.D.R.Crim.P. 3 because it did not contain a statement of facts that establish the elements of the crime charged. We addressed a similar argument in State v. Bornhoeft, in which we concluded an "affidavit can be read with the complaint to test the sufficiency of the complaint on a motion to dismiss." 2009 ND 138, ¶ 8, 770 N.W.2d 270.

According to Rule 3(a) & 3(b) of the North Dakota Rules of Criminal Procedure, a "complaint is a written statement of the essential facts constituting the elements of the offense charged, " and the "magistrate may... receive any affidavit filed with the complaint." A similar provision allowing for consideration of an affidavit filed with a complaint is found in N.D.R.Crim.P. 4(a)(1), providing, "[i]f it appears from the complaint, and any affidavit filed with the complaint, that there is probable cause to believe that a criminal offense has been committed... the magistrate must issue an arrest warrant." The affidavit can thus be read with the complaint to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that a criminal offense has been committed, and it follows that the affidavit can be read with the complaint to test the sufficiency of the complaint on a motion to dismiss as well.

Bornhoeft, 2009 ND 138, ¶ 8. 770 N.W.2d 270 (emphasis in original).

         [¶ 8] The purpose of a criminal complaint is to fairly inform the defendant of the charge in order to prepare his defenses. State v. Jelliff, 251 N.W.2d 1, 5 (N.D. 1977); City of Minot v. Bjelland, 452 N.W.2d 348, 351 (N.D. 1990). Criminal complaints phrased in statutory language have been held sufficient. Jelliff, at 5 (citing State v. Prince, 75 N.D. 386, 28 N.W.2d 538 (1947)). While an affidavit is not part of the complaint and does not itself charge an offense, this Court has held an information, a charging document similar to a complaint, is sufficient when an affidavit was ...


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