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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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 ...