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State v. Beltran

Supreme Court of North Dakota

July 11, 2018

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Ronald William Beltran, Defendant and Appellant

          Appeal from the District Court of Mountrail County, North Central Judicial District, the Honorable Gary H. Lee, Judge.

          Wade G. Enget, Mountrail County State's Attorney, Stanley, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

          Kiara C. Kraus-Parr, Grand Forks, ND, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          Jensen, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Ronald Beltran appeals from a judgment entered following a jury verdict finding him guilty of driving under the influence and driving under suspension. Beltran argues the evidence presented at trial was not sufficient to convict him of driving under the influence. Beltran also argues the district court abused its discretion by not allowing the introduction of medical records and denying his request to stipulate to his license status. We affirm.

         I

         [¶ 2] Mountrail County Deputy Michael Munger received a citizen complaint regarding Beltran's vehicle. Deputy Munger subsequently observed Beltran drive to and stop in the parking lot of a gas station. Deputy Munger approached Beltran's parked vehicle and initiated a conversation with Beltran. During the conversation, Deputy Munger detected an odor of alcohol coming from Beltran. Beltran subsequently showed signs of impairment while performing field sobriety tests. Deputy Munger received information from the dispatcher which indicated Beltran's driver's license was suspended or revoked. Beltran was placed under arrest. Deputy Munger testified he had not memorized the exact words of the North Dakota implied consent advisory, but he read to Beltran the most up-to-date advisory from a form and Beltran refused to take a chemical breath test.

         [¶ 3] The State charged Beltran with a class C felony for driving under the influence as a fourth offense within fifteen years, alleging he drove a vehicle on a roadway while under the influence or, alternatively, he drove a vehicle on a roadway and refused to submit to a chemical test of his blood, breath, or urine. The State also charged Beltran with driving while his license was suspended or revoked.

         [¶ 4] The district court instructed the jury it could find Beltran guilty of driving under the influence if it found Beltran was driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or, alternatively, if it found Beltran refused to submit to a chemical test for intoxication. A general verdict form for the charge of driving under the influence asked the jury to decide whether Beltran was not guilty or guilty without specifying whether he was driving under the influence or refused to submit to a chemical test. A jury found Beltran guilty of driving under the influence as a fourth or greater offense within fifteen years and guilty of driving while his license was suspended or revoked.

         II

         [¶ 5] Beltran argues there was insufficient evidence to convict him of driving under the influence. Beltran's argument relies on the assertions Deputy Munger could not remember the exact language of the advisory he read to Beltran, and the State failed to establish whether Beltran refused a blood, urine, or breath test. Beltran then contends that because an individual may not be convicted for refusing a warrantless blood or urine test incident to an arrest, and it is impossible to determine what type of chemical test Beltran refused to perform, he cannot be convicted of refusing to take the chemical test. See Birchfield v. North Dakota, 136 S.Ct. 2160, 2184-85 (2016); State v. Helm, 2017 ND 207, ¶¶ 9, 16, 901 N.W.2d 57; State v. Webster, 2017 ND 75, ¶¶ 5-9, 891 N.W.2d 769. Beltran concludes there was insufficient evidence to convict him of the crime of driving under the influence because the general verdict combined refusal and driving under the influence, leaving it impossible to tell the ground for his conviction and leaving open the possibility he was improperly convicted of refusing a warrantless blood or urine test. See Webster, at ¶¶ 5-9 (reversing a conviction for driving under the influence where the general verdict form combined refusal of a warrantless blood test with driving while under the influence). Within his argument that there was insufficient evidence to support the verdict, Beltran also argues the district court obviously erred by including a jury instruction on the crime of refusal to submit to a chemical test.

         [¶ 6] "In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to convict, we look only to the evidence most favorable to the verdict and the reasonable inferences therefrom to see if there is substantial evidence to warrant a conviction." State v. Crissler, 2017 ND 249, ¶ 10, 902 N.W.2d 925 (quoting State v. Knowels, 2003 ND 180, ¶ 6, 671 N.W.2d 816). "In reviewing sufficiency of the evidence challenges, we review the record to determine whether there is sufficient evidence that could allow a jury to draw a reasonable inference in favor of the conviction." State v. Truelove, 2017 ND 283, ¶ 7, 904 N.W.2d 342. "The defendant bears the burden of showing the evidence reveals no reasonable inference of guilt when viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict." Id. Additionally, "[t]o establish obvious error, a defendant must show: (1) error; (2) that is plain; and (3) affects substantial rights." Webster, 2017 ND 75, ¶ 8, 891 N.W.2d 769 (citations omitted).

         [¶ 7] Beltran's assertion the State failed to establish what type of chemical test was requested by Deputy Munger and subsequently refused by Beltran is not correct. Deputy Munger unequivocally testified Beltran refused a request to submit to an Intoxilyzer breath test:

A. [Deputy Munger] The test would have been the intoxilyzer which is a breath alcohol test that's conducted in the jail at Mountrail ...

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