City of Grand Forks v. Ramstad

Decision Date26 March 2003
Docket NumberNo. 20020120.,20020120.
PartiesCITY OF GRAND FORKS, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Darin Lee RAMSTAD, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court

Gary E. Euren, City Prosecutor, Grand Forks, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.

Steven M. Light, Larivee & Light, Grand Forks, ND, for defendant and appellant.

VANDE WALLE, Chief Justice.

[¶ 1] Darin Ramstad appealed from a judgment of conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol. We affirm.

I

[¶ 2] On February 20, 2002, Darin Ramstad was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. He was taken to the Grand Forks Police Department, where he consented to an intoxilyzer test. The test indicated Ramstad's blood alcohol level was .13 percent.

[¶ 3] On February 21, 2002, Ramstad's attorney served discovery requests upon the City. Among numerous other items, Ramstad requested that the City disclose:

d. the dates of all simulator tests (if applicable) run by the operator within twelve months prior to the date of Defendant's tests to verify the validity of his test certification;
....
g. the date of [the breath analyzer's] latest certification;
h. any repair records of the breath analyzer;
i. whether the breath analyzer has been tested for radio frequency interference (RFI) and, if so, the dates of the testing, the circumstances under which the testing was done, the person who tested the analyzer, the FRI [sic] sources to which the analyzer was subjected, and the distance each source was to the analyzer;....

[¶ 4] In response to Ramstad's discovery requests, the City on February 28, 2002, provided some of the items which had been requested. The cover letter indicated that the enclosed items constituted the City's "entire file" on Ramstad's case. The requested items regarding the breath analyzer and test operator were not provided.

[¶ 5] Trial was set for May 15, 2002, with jury selection scheduled for May 14, 2002. On May 14, 2002, Ramstad served a motion to suppress evidence of the chemical test results because of the City's failure to provide the requested discovery materials. That same day, the City faxed the requested materials to Ramstad's attorney.

[¶ 6] On May 15, the morning of the scheduled trial, the trial court heard the suppression motion in chambers. Ramstad's attorney advised the court that Ramstad had retained an expert who would have testified if the breath analyzer records had been provided earlier, and Ramstad's attorney moved for a continuance to allow the expert to review the disclosed documents. The trial court denied the motion to suppress and the motion for a continuance.

[¶ 7] The breath test results were admitted into evidence and the jury returned a guilty verdict. A judgment of conviction was entered and Ramstad appealed.

II

[¶ 8] Ramstad argues the requested information was exculpatory or could have been used to "impeach" the accuracy of the breath analyzer, and therefore the City's failure to disclose those records violated his due process rights under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963).

[¶ 9] In Brady, the United States Supreme Court held that suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused violates due process if the evidence is material to guilt or punishment. Id. at 87; see State v. Sievers, 543 N.W.2d 491, 495 (N.D.1996). To establish a Brady violation, the burden is upon the defendant to show: "(1) the government possessed evidence favorable to the defendant; (2) the defendant did not possess the evidence and could not have obtained it with reasonable diligence; (3) the prosecution suppressed the evidence; and (4) a reasonable probability exists that the outcome of the proceedings would have been different if the evidence had been disclosed." State v. Goulet, 1999 ND 80, ¶ 15, 593 N.W.2d 345; see also Sievers, at 496. Ramstad has failed to establish two of the elements of a Brady violation.

[¶ 10] The initial inquiry when a defendant alleges a Brady violation is whether the undisclosed material was favorable to the defendant. The United States Supreme Court has stated that the first component of a Brady violation is that "[t]he evidence at issue must be favorable to the accused, either because it is exculpatory, or because it is impeaching." Strickler v. Greene, 527 U.S. 263, 281-82, 119 S.Ct. 1936, 144 L.Ed.2d 286 (1999). As noted in 26 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 633.06[3] (3d ed.2002), "[i]f the evidence is not exculpatory or valuable for impeachment purposes, the evidence is not Brady material and the government has no duty to disclose it." We have previously indicated that "by definition, Brady materials are plainly exculpatory," and Brady does not apply where it is merely "speculative whether the evidence might have been exculpatory, or might have been inculpatory." State v. Steffes, 500 N.W.2d 608, 613 (N.D.1993). If the defendant fails to demonstrate that the evidence was favorable to him, there is no Brady violation. See Goulet, 1999 ND 80, ¶ 15, 593 N.W.2d 345.

[¶ 11] Ramstad has failed to present any evidence that the undisclosed materials would have been exculpatory or would have called into question the accuracy of the breath analyzer. Under these circumstances, Ramstad has failed to demonstrate a Brady violation.

[¶ 12] Ramstad argues that his expert was denied the opportunity to examine these materials before trial, and therefore could not render an opinion whether the records would have called into question the accuracy of the test results. Ramstad could have presented a post-trial affidavit from the expert, in conjunction with a motion for a new trial, if the undisclosed evidence proved to be exculpatory or impeaching. Failure to disclose Brady material is a due process violation, and may provide the basis for a new trial. See Sievers, 543 N.W.2d at 495-97; State v. Anderson, 336 N.W.2d 123, 128-29 (N.D. 1983); 26 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 633.03[6] (3d ed.2002). The due process clause, through Brady, is not implicated where the evidence is not "plainly" favorable to the defendant, and it is merely speculative whether the evidence might have been exculpatory or valuable for impeachment. See Steffes, 500 N.W.2d at 613. In raising a Brady challenge, it was incumbent upon Ramstad to supplement the record if necessary to establish that the undisclosed materials were in fact favorable to him.

[¶ 13] In addition, a defendant alleging a Brady violation must show that he could not have obtained the undisclosed evidence with reasonable diligence. Goulet, 1999 ND 80, ¶ 15, 593 N.W.2d 345; Sievers, 543 N.W.2d at 496. We have clearly stated that "[t]he Brady rule does not apply to evidence the defendant could have obtained with reasonable diligence." Sievers, at 496; see also 25 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 616.06[4] (3d ed.2002). The materials sought in this case were public records, readily obtainable through the State Toxicologist's office. Ramstad has failed to provide any reason why he could not, with reasonable diligence, have obtained these materials on his own.

[¶ 14] We conclude Ramstad has failed to demonstrate the City's failure to disclose these materials constituted a Brady violation.

III

[¶ 15] Ramstad argues the City's failure to provide the requested documents violated N.D.R.Crim.P. 16, and the trial court abused its discretion in failing to grant a remedy under N.D.R.Crim.P. 16(d)(2).

[¶ 16] Rule 16, N.D.R.Crim.P., governs discovery in criminal cases. Under N.D.R.Crim.P. 16(a)(1)(C) and (D), the prosecution must disclose certain documents and reports of scientific tests upon request by the defendant:

(C) Documents and Tangible Objects. Upon written request of a defendant, the prosecuting attorney shall permit the defendant to inspect and copy or photograph books, papers, documents, photographs, tangible objects, buildings, or places, or copies or portions thereof, which are within the possession, custody, or control of the prosecution, and which are material to the preparation of the defendant's defense, or are intended for use by the prosecutor as evidence in chief at the trial, or were obtained from or belong to the defendant.
(D) Reports of Examinations and Tests. Upon written request of a defendant the prosecuting attorney shall permit the defendant to inspect and copy or photograph any results or reports of physical or mental examinations, and of scientific tests or experiments, or copies thereof, within the possession, custody, or control of the prosecution, the existence of which is known, or by the exercise of due diligence may become known, to the prosecuting attorney, and which are material to the preparation of the defense or are intended for use by the prosecutor as evidence in chief at the trial.

Rule 16(d)(2) provides remedies for discovery violations:

(2) Failure to Comply With Request. If at any time during the course of the proceedings it is brought to the attention of the court that a party has failed to comply with this Rule or with an order issued pursuant to this Rule, the court may order that party to permit the discovery or inspection of materials not previously disclosed, grant a continuance, prohibit the party from introducing in evidence the material not disclosed, relieve the requesting party from making a disclosure required by this Rule, or it may enter such other order as it deems just under the circumstances. The court may specify the time, place, and manner of making the discovery and inspection and may prescribe such terms and conditions as are just.

[¶ 17] Rule 16 is a discovery rule, not a constitutional mandate, and is designed to further the interests of fairness. State v. Ensminger, 542 N.W.2d 722, 723 (N.D.1996); State v. McNair, 491 N.W.2d 397, 400 (N.D.1992). Rule 16, N.D.R.Crim.P., is derived from Fed. R.Crim.P. 16. See Ensminger, at 723. When a state rule is derived from a...

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22 cases
  • State v. Loughead, 20060160.
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • 1 Febrero 2007
    ...rules of criminal procedure and the Constitution. A [¶ 17] Rule 16, N.D.R.Crim. P., governs discovery in criminal cases. City of Grand Forks v. Ramstad, 2003 ND 41, ¶ 16, 658 N.W.2d 731. Under N.D.R.Crim.P. 16, the prosecution must disclose, upon the defendant's request, statements of the d......
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    ...¶ 10, 660 N.W.2d 581. [¶ 23] While not a constitutional mandate, Rule 16 is designed to further the interests of fairness. City of Grand Forks v. Ramstad, 2003 ND 41, ¶ 16, 658 N.W.2d 731. "Although the trial court may impose sanctions for a failure to comply with Rule 16, including prohibi......
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    ...a "`rule is patterned on a Federal rule, the Federal courts' interpretation of the Federal rule is highly persuasive.'" City of Grand Forks v. Ramstad, 2003 ND 41, ¶ 37, 658 N.W.2d 731 (quoting State v. Meier, 422 N.W.2d 381, 386 [¶ 16] Under Fed.R.Evid. 104(a) and 1101(d)(1), the United St......
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    ...in the possession of other government agencies participating in the investigation or cooperating with the prosecution. City of Grand Forks v. Ramstad, 2003 ND 41, ¶ 19, 658 N.W.2d [¶ 41] If a party fails to comply with N.D.R.Crim.P. 16 or an order issued under the rule, the court may order ......
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1 books & journal articles
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    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Attacking and Defending Drunk Driving Tests
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    ...to a Brady violation as the defendant did not demonstrate that the evidence would have been favorable to him. [ City of Grand Forks , 658 N.W.2d 731, 734 (N.D. 2003).] The holding in Youngblood was recently applied in a drunk driving context in a case from Georgia. [ Shoemake v. State , 596......

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