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Facio v. North Dakota Department of Transportation

Supreme Court of North Dakota

July 30, 2019

Juan Facio, Petitioner and Appellee
v.
North Dakota Department of Transportation, Respondent and Appellant

          Appeal from the District Court of Ramsey County, Northeast Judicial District, the Honorable Donovan J. Foughty, Judge.

          Joseph R. Vetsch, Devils Lake, ND, for petitioner and appellee.

          Douglas B. Anderson, Office of Attorney General, Bismarck, ND, for respondent and appellant.

          OPINION

          Crothers, Justice.

         [¶1] The Department of Transportation appeals from a district court judgment reversing a Department decision suspending Juan Facio's driving privileges for 365 days. We affirm, concluding the district court did not err in finding reasonable and articulable suspicion did not support the stop of Facio's vehicle.

         I

         [¶2] In April 2018 a Ramsey County deputy sheriff stopped a vehicle driven by Facio and subsequently arrested him for driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor. In May 2018 a hearing officer held an administrative hearing on the Department's proposed suspension of his driving privileges. The hearing officer subsequently suspended Facio's driving privileges for 365 days.

         [¶3] In its decision, the hearing officer made factual findings about the deputy's stop of Facio's vehicle:

"Ramsey County Sheriffs Deputy Christon Dallas was dispatched from Devils Lake to Starkweather at around 11:40 p.m. on April 27, 2018, in response to an anonymous caller reporting individuals on top of the school, running around. There was a white Chevy pickup by the school. The pickup's grill was described and a license plate given. While Dallas was on his way, dispatch ran the plate and it came back to Mr. Facio. Dallas traveled the approximate 21 miles north on Highway 20 to reach Starkweather, arriving at around midnight. After he turned east in the direction of the school he met a pickup fitting the given description coming from the direction of the school. It had a Minnesota license plate as reported. There was no other traffic in Starkweather at the time. As the pickup pulled up to the intersection with Highway 20, Dallas turned around on the pickup intending to stop it to follow up on the report. After the pickup made a proper turn to go southbound on Highway 20, at about 12:05 a.m. on April 28th, Dallas initiated a traffic stop and the pickup pulled over and stopped appropriately."

         [¶4] The hearing officer found the deputy had a reasonable and articulable suspicion to stop Facio's vehicle after receiving the anonymous tip. The hearing officer concluded the anonymous tip was sufficiently corroborated by the deputy's observations, namely the vehicle's description and license plate, the pickup's location, and the pickup's direction as coming from the area of the school. Facio requested review of the hearing officer's decision in the district court.

         [¶5] The district court reversed the hearing officer's decision, concluding reasonable and articulable suspicion did not exist for the deputy to stop the vehicle solely based on the anonymous tip. The Department timely appeals.

         II

         [¶6] This Court's review of the Department's decision to suspend a person's driving privileges is governed by the Administrative Agencies Practice Act, N.D.C.C. ch. 28-32. Jangula v. N.D. Dep 't of Tramp., 2016 ND 116, ¶ 5, 881 N.W.2d 639. This Court reviews the decision under N.D.C.C. § 28-32-49 in the same manner as the district court under N.D.C.C. § 28-32-46. Jangula, at ¶ 5. Under N.D.C.C. § 28-32-46(2), this Court will reverse the decision if it "is in violation of the constitutional rights of the appellant."

         [¶7] "In deciding whether an agency's findings of fact are supported by a preponderance of the evidence, [this Court's] review is confined to the record before the agency and to determining whether a reasoning mind reasonably could have determined the factual conclusions were proven by the weight of the evidence." Jangula, 2016 ND 116, ¶ 6, 881 N.W.2d 639 (quoting Painte v. Dir., Dep't of Tramp.,2013 ND 95, ΒΆ 7, 832 N.W.2d 319). This Court does not make independent ...


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