State v. Casatelli, 011221 NDSC, 20200096

Docket Nº20200096
Opinion JudgeTUFTE, JUSTICE
Party NameState of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee v. Garett James Casatelli, Defendant and Appellant
AttorneyDennis H. Ingold, Assistant State's Attorney, Bismarck, N.D., for plaintiff and appellee. Chad R. McCabe, Bismarck, N.D., for defendant and appellant.
Judge PanelJon J. Jensen, C.J., Gerald W.VandeWalle, Daniel J. Crothers, Lisa Fair McEvers, Jerod E. Tufte
Case DateJanuary 12, 2021
CourtSupreme Court of North Dakota

2021 ND 11

State of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee

v.

Garett James Casatelli, Defendant and Appellant

No. 20200096

Supreme Court of North Dakota

January 12, 2021

Appeal from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central Judicial District, the Honorable Gail Hagerty, Judge.

Dennis H. Ingold, Assistant State's Attorney, Bismarck, N.D., for plaintiff and appellee.

Chad R. McCabe, Bismarck, N.D., for defendant and appellant.

OPINION

TUFTE, JUSTICE

[¶1] Garett Casatelli appeals from a corrected criminal judgment after he entered a conditional guilty plea to the charge of actual physical control of a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or greater. We conclude Casatelli was not seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment or N.D. Const. art. I, § 8, and the district court did not err in denying his motion to suppress evidence. We affirm.

I

[¶2] On October 3, 2019, two Burleigh County deputies were dispatched to investigate a report of a loud party. After identifying the residence of the loud party, the deputies parked their patrol vehicles down the street and walked up a long driveway to get to the residence. As they approached, they observed a male, later identified as Casatelli, walk out of the residence's front door; enter a vehicle parked in the driveway; and start the vehicle's engine. A deputy approached the vehicle, knocked on the window, and shined his flashlight into it. Without exchanging words, Casatelli shut off the engine and exited the vehicle.

[¶3] When the deputy introduced himself and asked about the party, Casatelli said he was a friend of the individuals having the party at the residence. The deputy testified at the suppression hearing that, at this point, he could smell an odor of alcohol and noted Casatelli had bloodshot, watery eyes and his speech was slurred. The deputies then proceeded to investigate the loud-party complaint. After Casatelli accompanied the deputies to the front door, a person who identified herself as a house sitter agreed to allow the deputies to enter to discuss the loud-party complaint. Casatelli went with deputies into the backyard where several individuals had music playing.

[¶4] After addressing the noise complaint, the deputy who had initially spoken with Casatelli at his vehicle asked Casatelli to accompany him out of the backyard to the front of the house to do field sobriety tests. Casatelli performed poorly on the tests. He consented to an on-site screening test, which indicated a blood alcohol content of 0.206 percent. He was placed under arrest and taken to the detention center, where he consented to a breath test.

[¶5] In October 2019, the State charged Casatelli with being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of sixteen one-hundredths of one percent by weight or greater, a class B misdemeanor. Casatelli moved the district court to suppress evidence, contending the Burleigh County deputies gained evidence after seizing him from a constitutionally protected area. The State opposed the motion. In January 2020, the district court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion to suppress, at which the two deputies and Casatelli testified.

[¶6] The district court denied his motion, concluding the deputies had acted reasonably and Casatelli's constitutional rights were not violated. The court rejected his argument that he was in a "constitutionally protected area" because it was not his residence and there was no indication he had any expectation of privacy in the area where there was a party. The court further concluded the officers had a reasonable and articulable suspicion that Casatelli had been in actual physical control of a vehicle and was under the influence. The court held the deputies had acted reasonably in investigating the "overlapping situations" and evidence did not support a conclusion Casatelli was forced to accompany officers to do field sobriety testing.

[¶7] Casatelli entered a conditional guilty plea to an amended charge of being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of eight one-hundredths of one percent by weight or greater, reserving his right to appeal the court's denial of his motion to suppress. A corrected criminal judgment was entered in March 2020.

II

[¶8] Our standard for reviewing the district court decision on a motion to suppress is well established: [W]e defer to the district court's findings of fact and resolve conflicts in testimony in favor of affirmance. We will affirm a district court's decision on a motion to suppress if there is sufficient competent evidence fairly capable of supporting the trial court's findings, and the decision is not contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. Our standard of review recognizes the importance of the district court's opportunity to observe the witnesses and assess their credibility. Questions of law are fully reviewable on appeal, and whether a finding of fact meets a legal standard is a question of law.

City of Bismarck v. Vagts, 2019 ND 224, ¶ 4, 932 N.W.2d 523 (quoting State v. Bohe, 2018 ND 216, ¶ 9, 917 N.W.2d 497).

III

[¶9] Casatelli argues that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence because he was seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment and N.D. Const. art. I, § 8, when he was seized from a "constitutionally protected area."

[¶10] Both the federal and state constitutions protect "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures[.]" U.S. Const. amend. IV; N.D. Const. art. I, § 8. This Court has said: An individual's capacity to challenge a search or seizure depends on "whether 'the disputed search and seizure has infringed an interest of the defendant which the Fourth Amendment was designed to protect.'" In those interests, an individual is said to have "a reasonable expectation of privacy." A reasonable expectation of privacy has two elements: 1) the individual must exhibit an actual, subjective expectation of privacy, and 2) that expectation must be one that society recognizes as reasonable.

State v. Gatlin, 2014 ND 162, ¶ 5, 851 N.W.2d 178 (citations omitted). Under the exclusionary rule, evidence obtained in violation of an individual's rights under the Fourth Amendment or under Article I, Section 8, of the North Dakota Constitution, may not be used against that individual. State v. Gardner, 2019 ND 122, ¶ 7, 927 N.W.2d 84. We have said that "[w]hether an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy in an area is reviewed under the de novo standard of review." State v. Adams, 2018 ND 18, ¶ 9, 905 N.W.2d 758 (citing State v. Williams, 2015 ND 103, ¶ 14, 862 N.W.2d 831) (emphasis added). "Whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in a given area must be decided on a case-by-case basis." Adams, at ¶ 9...

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