from the District Court of Mercer County, South Central
Judicial District, the Honorable David E. Reich, Judge.
Jessica J. Binder, State's Attorney, Stanton, N.D., for
plaintiff and appellee.
A. Kaffar, Hazen, N.D., for defendant and appellant.
1] Miguel Ayala appeals a criminal judgment entered on his
conditional plea of guilty to driving under the influence. He
reserved his right to appeal the district court's denial
of his motion to suppress his blood test result, arguing that
law enforcement failed to "inform" him as required
under the implied-consent law. We affirm the judgment,
concluding the district court did not err in finding the
deputy properly informed Ayala.
2] The facts relied upon by the district court were not
disputed. A deputy sheriff stopped Ayala when he failed to
dim his bright lights for oncoming traffic. The deputy
testified that he questioned Ayala and detected the odor of
alcohol emitting from the car. It became apparent to the
deputy that Ayala struggled with English. A video recording
of the stop showed the deputy attempting to communicate with
Ayala and allowing him to ask questions.
3] The deputy conducted the horizontal gaze nystagmus field
sobriety test and observed six out of six clues that Ayala
was intoxicated. He then read Ayala the implied-consent
advisory in English, requesting that Ayala submit to a
preliminary screening breath test. The deputy repeated and
rephrased portions of the advisory in an attempt to ensure
Ayala's understanding, but did not read the advisory in
Spanish, Ayala's primary language. Ayala submitted to the
test, which showed his blood alcohol concentration to be
0.18. The deputy arrested Ayala and brought him to the Mercer
County Jail. Once there, the deputy again read the
implied-consent advisory and asked Ayala to submit to an
Intoxilyzer breath test. Ayala submitted to the test, which
revealed a blood alcohol concentration of 0.212.
4] The State charged Ayala with driving under the influence.
Ayala moved the district court to suppress evidence of his
breath test, arguing the deputy failed to "inform"
him of North Dakota's implied-consent laws as required.
He argued an "officer fails to inform the individual
charged" under N.D.C.C. § 39-20-01(3)(b) unless the
implied-consent advisory is conveyed to the driver and the
driver is "actually informed." The district court
denied Ayala's motion, concluding that despite the
language difficulties between them, the deputy properly
informed Ayala under the implied-consent law. Ayala pled
guilty, reserving this issue, and now appeals.
5] The issue on appeal is the meaning of "inform"
as used in N.D.C.C. § 39-20-01. This is a question of
statutory interpretation, which we review de novo. State
v. Kuruc, 2014 ND 95, ¶ 32, 846 N.W.2d 314. We
begin with the plain language of the statute to determine
whether it is unambiguous. We interpret the words in a
statute to give them their commonly understood meaning
unless, reading the statute as a whole, a contrary meaning
plainly appears. State v. Davis, 2016 ND 145, ¶
11, 882 N.W.2d 281 (citing N.D.C.C. §§ 1-02-02 and
1-02-07). If a statute is ambiguous and susceptible to
multiple rational interpretations the court may resort to
extrinsic aids, "including the object sought to be
attained, the circumstances under which the legislation was
enacted, and the legislative history." Id.
(citing N.D.C.C. § 1-02-39).
6] When a law enforcement officer requests a chemical test to
determine if a driver has alcohol in his system, the test
results are not admissible "if the law enforcement
officer fails to inform the individual" of the
implied-consent law. N.D.C.C. § 39-20-01(3)(b). To
satisfy this requirement, a complete implied-consent advisory
must be provided to the driver. State v.
O'Connor, 2016 ND 72, ¶ 8, 877 N.W.2d 312. We
have not previously considered the question of whether the
advisory must simply be read or whether something more is
required to "inform" a driver.
7] On appeal, the State argues that the requirement to
"inform" a driver is equivalent to giving the
advisory or notifying the driver. The State concedes that
reading at an inaudible volume or at the speed of an
auctioneer would create an unjust result, which we presume is
not intended. N.D.C.C. § 1-02-38(3). Ayala argues in his
brief that the legislature intended to create an objective
test in which the officer is expected to act in an
objectively reasonable manner to convey the advisory to
drivers. During oral argument, however, he asked us to create
a bright-line rule by which officers must convey the advisory
in the primary language of the driver. After finding that the
video showed Ayala was "properly informed, " the
district court concluded ...