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State v. Hedstrom

Supreme Court of North Dakota

June 29, 2017

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Christian John Hedstrom, Defendant and Appellant

         Appeal from the District Court of Cass County, East Central Judicial District, the Honorable Frank L. Racek, Judge.

          Christopher Nelson (argued), third-year law student, under the Rule on Limited Practice of Law by Law Students, and Mark R. Boening (appeared), Assistant State's Attorney, Fargo, N.D., for plaintiff and appellee.

          Sarah Kyte (argued), third-year law student, under the Rule on Limited Practice of Law by Law Students, and Monty G. Mertz (appeared), Fargo, N.D., for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          Tufte, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Christian Hedstrom appeals a criminal judgment entered on his conditional plea of guilty to manufacturing marijuana and possession of marijuana. He was arrested after three bail bond agents entered and searched his residence, discovered large marijuana plants, and notified law enforcement. We affirm the judgment, concluding the district court did not err in denying Hedstrom's motion to suppress.

         I

         [¶ 2] Late at night in July 2016, three bail bond agents ("bounty hunters") arrived at Christian Hedstrom's home in search of his brother, a fugitive. They knocked on the door and announced their presence. No one responded. Inside the home, a dog was barking. The bounty hunters thought they saw movement inside. They requested assistance from the Fargo police department in searching Hedstrom's home.

         [¶ 3] After law enforcement officers arrived, the bounty hunters provided them with documentation that confirmed their identity, the fugitive's identity, and Hedstrom's home as the fugitive's residence. The officers informed the bounty hunters they would not assist them in the search but would form a perimeter to ensure everyone's safety. An officer testified that an additional reason for their securing the perimeter was to capture the fugitive if he attempted to escape from a window as the bounty hunters entered the home.

         [¶ 4] The bounty hunters then kicked down Hedstrom's front door and entered his home while the officers secured a perimeter outside. An officer testified that the bounty hunters searched the home for some time, conducting "a thorough search" of the home. The bounty hunters found no one inside. During their search, they found a dog and several large marijuana plants. Upon leaving the house, they showed the officers photographs they had taken inside and described the marijuana plants they had seen in the basement and the upstairs bedroom closet. This information was used by the officers to obtain a search warrant.

         [¶ 5] During the bounty hunters' search, Hedstrom and his girlfriend arrived home. They informed the officers the fugitive had turned himself in, and Hedstrom demanded the officers and the bounty hunters leave his property. The officers detained Hedstrom for the next two hours as they obtained a search warrant, searched the home, and seized the marijuana plants. They arrested Hedstrom, and he was charged with manufacturing marijuana, possession of marijuana, and possession of marijuana paraphernalia.

         [¶ 6] Hedstrom moved the district court to suppress evidence obtained during the search of his home. He argued the officers' acquiescence and cooperation in the bounty hunters' search transformed their search into a government-sanctioned warrantless search in violation of his constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. He also argued the nighttime search warrant application lacked sufficient information to establish probable cause required under N.D.R.Crim.P. 41(c)(1). The district court rejected both arguments, concluding the bounty hunters did not search Hedstrom's home at the direction of law enforcement officers and the midnight search warrant satisfied the requirements under N.D.R.Crim.P. 41(c)(1). Hedstrom appeals.

         II

         [¶ 7] When reviewing a district court's decision on a motion to suppress, our precedents mandate we grant deference to the district court's factual findings. State v. Dudley, 2010 ND 39, ¶ 6, 779 N.W.2d 369. "We affirm a court's decision denying a motion to suppress if, after resolving conflicting evidence in favor of affirmance, 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. Juntunen, 2014 ND 86, ¶ 3, 845 N.W.2d 325.

         [¶ 8] The first issue presented before us is whether the district court erred by concluding the officers' conduct did not transform the bounty hunters' search into a government search. The second issue is whether there was sufficient probable ...


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