Borowicz v. North Dakota Dept. of Transp.

Decision Date21 March 1995
Docket NumberNo. 940363,940363
Citation529 N.W.2d 186
PartiesDouglas R. BOROWICZ, Petitioner and Appellant, v. NORTH DAKOTA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Respondent and Appellee. Civ.
CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court

Richard A. Ohlsen, Moosbrugger, Ohlsen, Dvorak & Carter, Grand Forks, for petitioner and appellant.

Monte L. Rogneby, Asst. Atty. Gen., Atty. Gen. Office, Bismarck, for respondent and appellee.

VANDE WALLE, Chief Justice.

Douglas R. Borowicz appealed from a judgment of the district court, Northeast Central Judicial District, affirming the decision of the North Dakota Department of Transportation suspending his driving privileges for violating section 39-08-01, N.D.C.C. Because the evidence supports the hearing officer's conclusion that the arresting officer had reasonable grounds to investigate a motor vehicle parked on a service road, we affirm.

At around 3:40 a.m. on June 3, 1994, Officer Marcus Erickson of the Grand Forks Police Department noticed a pickup parked northbound on the service road of North Columbia Road. He observed that the pickup's headlights were on and that someone was "sitting slumped inside." The pickup motor was not running. He positioned his patrol car behind the pickup and turned on the overhead lights. After seeing no movement from inside the pickup, Officer Erickson approached the driver's side window and "knocked for two separate series with [his] hand." He received no response but noted that the individual in the pickup, Borowicz, was breathing and appeared to be asleep. He then used his flashlight to knock louder on the window and was able to awaken Borowicz. Upon the officer's request, Borowicz opened the door of the pickup. Officer Erickson testified that at this point he observed that the keys were in the ignition and that "the ignition was turned partially forward[, n]ot enough to start the ignition of the vehicle."

When asked to produce his driver's license, Borowicz initially produced what appeared to Officer Erickson to be his health insurance card. Borowicz then provided the officer with a North Dakota Drivers' License and it was discovered that it had been surrendered to Minnesota authorities and that Borowicz was awaiting receipt of a Minnesota license after testing in that state.

Officer Erickson noticed that Borowicz smelled of alcohol and requested that he perform a series of field sobriety tests. Although Borowicz was able to count backwards from one hundred, he failed the alphabet, finger-dexterity, one-leg stand, and walk-and-turn tests. He was arrested for actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, section 39-08-01, N.D.C.C. Borowicz was taken to the Grand Forks Police Department where he consulted an attorney before providing a breath sample for testing. The tests showed an alcohol concentration level of .13. Borowicz was provided with a temporary driver's permit pending a hearing before the Department of Transportation.

The hearing officer concluded that:

"Officer Erickson had reasonable grounds to make a brief investigatory stop, then had reasonable grounds to believe that Douglas Borowicz was in actual physical control of a vehicle in violation of NDCC 39-08-01 or equivalent ordinance. Mr. Borowicz was arrested, was properly tested, and had an alcohol concentration of at least .10%."

She suspended Borowicz's license for 365 days. Borowicz appealed the suspension to the district court, where it was affirmed.

In his appeal to this court, Borowicz argues that the suspension was illegal because Officer Erickson's "investigatory stop" was not within the realm of the community caretaking function of law enforcement and that the officer had no reasonable, articulable suspicion that Borowicz had committed or was committing a crime. We disagree.

Our review is limited to the record compiled before the Department of Transportation. N.D.C.C. ch. 28-32; See, e.g., Vogel v. Director, N.D. Dep't of Transp., 462 N.W.2d 129 (N.D.1990). We accord great deference to the rulings of administrative agencies. Vogel, supra. If the hearing officer's findings of fact are supported by a preponderance of the evidence, the conclusions of law are sustained by the findings of fact, and the decision is supported by the conclusions of law, we will not disturb the decision. Id. We will "not make independent findings of fact or substitute our judgment for that of the agency. We determine only whether a reasoning mind reasonably could have determined that the factual conclusions reached were proved by the weight of the evidence from the entire record." Power Fuels, Inc. v. Elkin, 283 N.W.2d 214, 220 (N.D.1979).

If Officer Erickson's initial actions in investigating the parked vehicle amounted to a "stop," he acted on reasonable suspicions which outweighed any Fourth Amendment interests which may have been implicated. Wibben v. North Dakota State Highway Comm'r, 413 N.W.2d 329 (N.D.1987). In Wibben, a case involving facts similar to this one, a majority of this court noted the important public interest involved in the "actual physical control" offense and decided that "[c]omparatively, Wibben's privacy interest was minimal." Id. at 332-33. The Wibben majority noted that:

"[i]t is not commonplace to be visibly seated in a car in a parking lot at 2:35 A.M. during an October night. 'The law enforcement interests at stake in these circumstances outweigh the individual's interest to be free of a stop and detention that is no more extensive than permissible in the investigation of...

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18 cases
  • State v. Coffman
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • June 22, 2018
    ...of Transportation after an officer noticed a vehicle parked on a service road with its headlights on but the motor off. 529 N.W.2d 186, 187 (N.D. 1995). When the officer saw someone slumped in the driver’s seat, he pulled behind the vehicle and activated his overhead lights. Id. at 187–88. ......
  • Williams v. State
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Delaware
    • December 2, 2008
    ...Vistuba, 251 Kan. 821, 840 P.2d 511 (1992); Evans, 764 N.E.2d 841; Kozak, 359 N.W.2d 625; Lovegren, 51 P.3d 471; Borowicz v. N.D. Dep't of Transp., 529 N.W.2d 186 (N.D. 1995); State v. Rinehart, 617 N.W.2d 842 (S.D.2000); State v. Ellenbecker, 159 Wis.2d 91, 464 N.W.2d 427 29. E.g. Enos, 20......
  • State v. Lovegren
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • July 9, 2002
    ...560 N.E.2d 309 (checking on a driver asleep behind the steering wheel is a permissible caretaking function); Borowicz v. North Dakota Dept. of Transp. (N.D.1995), 529 N.W.2d 186 (checking on a car stopped on the side of the road where the driver is slumped over the steering wheel is permitt......
  • Hoover v. Director, Dept. of Transp.
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • May 15, 2008
    ...conclusions of law, we will not disturb the decision.'" Brewer, 2007 ND 207, ¶ 4, 743 N.W.2d 391 (quoting Borowicz v. North Dakota Dep't of Transp., 529 N.W.2d 186, 187 (N.D.1995)). "[W]e ... review questions of law de novo." Sayler, at ¶ [¶ 8] Hoover argues the Department erred in concludi......
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