from the District Court of Cass County, East Central Judicial
District, the Honorable Wade L. Webb, Judge.
A. Friese (argued) and Drew J. Hushka (on brief), Fargo, ND,
Douglas B. Anderson, Office of Attorney General, Bismarck,
ND, for appellant.
1 ] The Department of Transportation ("Department")
appeals from a district court judgment reversing an
administrative hearing officer's decision to suspend
Bryan Andrew Bridgeford's driving privileges for a period
of 91 days. The Department asserts the district court erred
in determining a law enforcement officer was not within a
recognized exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth
Amendment when the officer entered Bridgeford's vehicle
after he failed to respond to the officer's actions
outside the vehicle. Because we hold the community caretaker
exception applied and allowed the warrantless entry into
Bridgeford's vehicle, we reverse the judgment and
reinstate the Department's suspension of Bridgeford's
On June 15, 2018, at 1:38 a.m., a West Fargo police officer
observed Bridgeford in the driver's seat of a running
vehicle parked in a gas station parking lot. Bridgeford did
not appear to be awake and was unresponsive when the officer
approached the driver's door of Bridgeford's vehicle.
In an attempt to wake Bridgeford, the officer knocked loudly
on the window and raised his voice for approximately 15
seconds. Bridgeford did not respond to the attempts to wake
him up from outside the vehicle. The officer then opened the
vehicle's unlocked door, grabbed Bridgeford's
shoulder, and shook Bridgeford until he woke up. The officer
testified he could smell an odor of alcohol after opening the
door, he observed Bridgeford had slurred speech and bloodshot
eyes, and Bridgeford admitted to consuming multiple beers.
After Bridgeford failed several field sobriety tests, the
officer placed Bridgeford under arrest for driving under the
influence of alcohol, actual physical control. Bridgeford
submitted to a chemical breath test, which established a
blood alcohol level of 0.178.
An administrative hearing was held to consider whether
Bridgeford's driving privileges should be suspended. At
the hearing, Bridgeford argued the officer's warrantless
entry into the vehicle was in violation of the Fourth
Amendment, and any evidence acquired subsequent to the entry
into the vehicle was inadmissible. During the hearing, the
officer testified he was not investigating a crime when he
came into contact with Bridgeford, but was "checking on
him" because Bridgeford was sleeping in his car, and the
vehicle was running. The hearing officer found the officer
properly entered the vehicle after Bridgeford failed to
respond to attempts to get his attention from outside the
vehicle. Bridgeford's driving privileges were revoked for
a period of 91 days. Bridgeford appealed to the district
court. The court reversed the hearing officer's decision
after concluding the entry into Bridgeford's vehicle was
a search, that no exception to the requirement for a warrant
applied, and any evidence gathered subsequent to the entry
into the vehicle was required to be excluded from evidence.
This Court reviews an administrative revocation of a
driver's license under N.D.C.C. § 28-32-46.
Olson v. N.D. Dep 't of Tramp., 2018 ND 94,
¶ 8, 909 N.W.2d 676. "In an appeal from a district
court's review of an administrative agency's
decision, we review the agency's decision."
Haynes v. Dir., Dep't of Tramp., 2014 ND 161,
¶ 6, 851 N.W.2d 172. This Court will affirm an
administrative agency's order unless:
2. The order is in violation of the constitutional rights of
5. The findings of fact made by the agency are not supported
by a preponderance of the evidence.
6.The conclusions of law and order of the agency are not
supported by its ...