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State v. White

Supreme Court of North Dakota

December 6, 2018

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee
Anquine Lamont White, Defendant and Appellant

          Appeal from the District Court of Williams County, Northwest Judicial District, the Honorable Kirsten M. Sjue, Judge.

          Laura C. Ringsak (on brief), Bismarck, ND, for defendant and appellant.

          Nathan K. Madden (on brief), Williams County Assistant State's Attorney, Williston, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.


          Crothers, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Anquine White appeals a district court criminal judgment after a jury found him guilty of drug, paraphernalia and firearm possession. White argues officers conducted a warrantless, suspicionless probationary search and violated his constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. Reasonable suspicion of White's roommate violating probation supported the initial search of the home, and discovery of evidence in plain view permissibly expanded the search. We affirm the criminal judgment.


         [¶ 2] White was on supervised probation for felony drug charges. He lived in Williston with another individual on supervised probation. Both men reported to the probation department that the home's address was their current residence and both men were subject to residential probationary searches as a condition of probation. White's roommate was on supervised probation approximately two months before the search of the residence. The roommate failed to report to probation officers as directed, even after an encounter with probation officers instructing him to contact the probation office by the end of the following week. Ten days after the roommate's deadline to report, probation officers visited the home to contact the roommate or White. White had not reported to probation officers for six weeks at the time of the search.

         [¶ 3] Upon arrival at the home, a third-party told the officers neither the roommate nor White were available. Based on the probation violation of White's roommate in failing to report, the officers searched the premises for the roommate or White. The search did not yield White or the roommate, but officers discovered a scale in plain view in one of the bedrooms. Officers expanded the search after the discovery and recovered several items of contraband, including paraphernalia, drugs and a firearm. Officers found personal effects linking White to the bedroom, and the State charged him with possession of drugs, paraphernalia and a firearm.

         [¶ 4] White moved to suppress the evidence gathered during the search, arguing that failure to report to probation officers is not sufficient to support a probationary search. The district court found a totality of the circumstances provided reasonable suspicion for the search based on the roommate's failure to report to probation officers. The district court found the officers permissibly expanded the search after discovering a scale with suspected drug residue in plain view in one of the bedrooms. The district court denied the motion to suppress evidence and a jury found White guilty.


         [¶ 5] White argues the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress because actions by the officers amounted to a suspicionless search in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. He claims the search violated Fourth Amendment rights because the officers lacked reasonable suspicion to initiate the search of the home.

         [¶ 6] When reviewing a district court's decision regarding a motion to suppress, we defer to the district court's findings of fact to resolve conflicts in testimony in favor of affirmance. State v. Kitchen, 1997 ND 241, ¶ 11, 572 N.W.2d 106. We affirm a district court decision on a motion to suppress if 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. Nickel, 2013 ND 155, ¶ 12, 836 N.W.2d 405 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Questions of law are fully reviewable, and whether a finding of fact meets a legal standard is a question of law. State v. Schmidt, 2015 ND 134, ¶ 5, 864 N.W.2d 265.

         [¶ 7] The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and art. I, § 8, of the North Dakota Constitution protect individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. When reviewing the constitutionality of probationary searches, we interpret the North Dakota Constitution to provide the same protections for probationers as provided by the United States Constitution. State v. Ballard, 2016 ND 8, ¶ 8, 874 N.W.2d 61. We consider the totality of the circumstances to balance the degree to which the search intrudes upon an individual's privacy against the degree to which the search is needed to promote legitimate government interests. Ballard, at ¶¶ 8, 34.

         [¶ 8] In United States v. Knights the Supreme Court considered the totality of circumstances, balanced government and private interests and held a probationary search was reasonable when it was supported by reasonable suspicion and authorized by a condition of probation. United States v. Knights, 534 U.S. 112, 122 ...

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