State v. Crabtree

Decision Date23 September 2008
Docket NumberNo. 20070280.,20070280.
Citation2008 ND 174,756 N.W.2d 189
PartiesSTATE of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee v. Matthew John CRABTREE, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court

Cynthia Mae Feland (argued), Assistant State's Attorney; and Julie A. Lawyer (on brief), Assistant State's Attorney, Bismarck, N.D., for plaintiff and appellee.

Thomas M. Tuntland, Mandan, N.D., for defendant and appellant.

MARING, Justice.

[¶ 1] Matthew Crabtree appeals from a criminal judgment entered upon his conditional guilty plea to gross sexual imposition after the district court denied his motion to suppress evidence. Because we conclude Crabtree was not compelled to provide his probation officer information that resulted in the charges in this case, we conclude the district court did not err in denying Crabtree's suppression motion, and we affirm the judgment.


[¶ 2] In September 2001, Crabtree pled guilty to two felony charges of delivery of a controlled substance, and to misdemeanor charges of delivery of alcohol to minors, corruption or solicitation of a minor, and possession of drug paraphernalia. After serving time in jail and while subsequently on probation, Crabtree began dating his future wife.

[¶ 3] In the summer of 2006, his future wife became pregnant, and she and Crabtree were married. Prior to the child's birth, Crabtree contacted his probation officer, Brian Weigel, seeking to change a condition of his probation, which prevented him from having contact with minors, to permit him to continue living with his wife once their child was born. Weigel testified that in order for him to support Crabtree's request, Crabtree would need to complete a sex offender disclosure questionnaire and submit to a polygraph examination. On appeal, the parties do not dispute that Crabtree's probation conditions did not require him to submit to a polygraph examination, but that his prior parole conditions did require him to submit to an examination. The parties also do not dispute Crabtree had actually completed his parole while still in prison on other charges and was released from prison only on probation. Nonetheless, both Crabtree and Weigel were under the impression that submission to a polygraph examination was a continuing requirement.

[¶ 4] In August 2006, Weigel requested that Crabtree answer a sex offender disclosure questionnaire. The questionnaire stated that all questions related to behavior occurring before the date of the last conviction for a sexual offense and stated that it was not seeking identifying information about victims. However, the questionnaire also stated, "SHOULD YOU REPORT IDENTIFYING INFORMATION ABOUT THESE VICTIMS ANYWAY, THIS INFORMATION WILL BE REPORTED TO CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES AS REQUIRED BY STATE LAW." Weigel informed Crabtree that a polygraph examination would be conducted regarding his answers, and after receiving this information, they would meet with sex offender treatment providers at West Central Human Services. Crabtree completed the questionnaire, and on August 22, 2006, submitted to the polygraph examination.

[¶ 5] Before the polygraph examination, however, Weigel and Crabtree went over Crabtree's answers to the questionnaire. Under a section entitled "treatment issues," there was a question asking Crabtree to list everyone with whom he had any sexual contact or relationship. Weigel testified he also added that the list should include everyone within the last five years. Crabtree listed the first names of two women and listed "an acquaintance." Weigel asked Crabtree what the name of the acquaintance was, and Crabtree stated he only knew the girl by her first name, which he provided to Weigel. Weigel did not ask Crabtree for the acquaintance's age. During the course of the examination, however, Crabtree admitted to the polygraph examiner that he had had sexual intercourse with a girl who Crabtree believed was an adult, but later found out was 15 or 16 years of age.

[¶ 6] In September 2006, Weigel, in addition to a representative from West Central Human Services, met with Crabtree about the results of the polygraph, indicating they needed more information regarding his sexual contact with the minor girl to support unrestricted contact with his child. During this meeting, Crabtree revealed additional information. Crabtree provided the name of a friend from work, also a minor, who introduced him to the girl. Crabtree said that the relationship occurred in March 2006 and the girl had told him she was 19, but that he ended the relationship when she later told him she was 15.

[¶ 7] Weigel then conducted further investigation, eventually discovering the identity of the minor girl. After meeting with the minor girl and her step-father, Weigel learned that Crabtree had sexual intercourse with the girl in March 2006, and that the girl was 14 years old at the time of the sexual encounters. The minor girl also indicated that she had told Crabtree she was 15 when he first asked.

[¶ 8] In September 2006, Crabtree was charged with gross sexual imposition, a class AA felony, for engaging in a sexual act with a minor less than 15 years old. In January 2007, Crabtree moved to suppress statements he made in connection with the polygraph examination and all evidence derived therefrom, including hand-written answers to the sex offender disclosure questionnaire. After a hearing, the court denied Crabtree's motion, and he entered a conditional guilty plea to the charge under N.D.R.Crim.P. 11.


[¶ 9] Crabtree claims he was compelled to provide information to his probation officer and argues the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress that evidence. This Court's standard for reviewing a district court's decision on a motion to suppress is well-established:

When reviewing a district court's ruling on a motion to suppress, we defer to the district court's findings of fact and resolve conflicts in testimony in favor of affirmance. We recognize that the district court is in a superior position to assess the credibility of witnesses and weigh the evidence. Generally, a district court's decision to deny a motion to suppress will not be reversed if there is sufficient competent evidence capable of supporting the district court's findings, and if its decision is not contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. Questions of law are fully reviewable on appeal, and whether a finding of fact meets a legal standard is a question of law.

State v. Goebel, 2007 ND 4, ¶ 11, 725 N.W.2d 578 (citations omitted). See also State v. Albaugh, 2007 ND 86, ¶ 8, 732 N.W.2d 712.


[¶ 10] Crabtree contends that his disclosure of incriminating information to his probation officer was compelled in violation of his right against self-incrimination under U.S. Const. amend. V and N.D. Const. art. I, § 12. Crabtree asserts he was "compelled" because both he and his probation officer believed that his refusal to provide information would result in revocation of his probation and because Crabtree feared probation revocation would result from his refusal to answer Weigel's questions.

[¶ 11] The Fifth Amendment, applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, states: "No person ... shall be compelled, in any criminal case, to be a witness against himself...." U.S. Const. amend. V; see also N.D. Const. art. I, § 12 ("No person shall ... be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself...."). In order to claim the privilege against self-incrimination, a witness must properly assert the privilege. See State v. Faul, 300 N.W.2d 827, 829 (N.D.1980). In this case, it is undisputed that Crabtree did not assert his privilege against self-incrimination, and the issue is whether he voluntarily provided the information to Weigel. He nevertheless asserts the use of his statements violate due process.

[¶ 12] "When a confession is challenged on due process grounds, the ultimate inquiry is whether the confession was voluntary." Goebel, 2007 ND 4, ¶ 16, 725 N.W.2d 578; see also State v. Norrid, 2000 ND 112, ¶ 18, 611 N.W.2d 866. A confession is voluntary if it is the product of the defendant's free choice, rather than the product of coercion. Goebel, at ¶ 16; State v. Pickar, 453 N.W.2d 783, 785 (N.D. 1990). "Voluntariness is determined by examining the totality of the circumstances surrounding the confession." Pickar, 453 N.W.2d at 785 (citing Blackburn v. Alabama, 361 U.S. 199, 206, 80 S.Ct. 274, 4 L.Ed.2d 242 (1960); State v. Discoe, 334 N.W.2d 466, 467 (N.D.1983)). A voluntariness inquiry focuses on two elements: "(1) the characteristics and condition of the accused at the time of the confession and (2) the details of the setting in which the confession was obtained." Pickar, 453 N.W.2d at 785 (citing Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 107 S.Ct. 515, 93 L.Ed.2d 473 (1986); Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 93 S.Ct. 2041, 36 L.Ed.2d 854 (1973); Culombe v. Connecticut, 367 U.S. 568, 81 S.Ct. 1860, 6 L.Ed.2d 1037 (1961); Discoe, 334 N.W.2d at 467-68); see also Goebel, 2007 ND 4, ¶ 16, 725 N.W.2d 578; State v. Syvertson, 1999 ND 134, ¶ 20, 597 N.W.2d 652. No single factor is determinative. See Pickar, 453 N.W.2d at 785.

[¶ 13] The voluntariness of a confession depends upon questions of fact to be resolved by the district court. Pickar, 453 N.W.2d at 785. Because the district court is in a superior position to judge credibility and weight, we give great deference to a district court's determination of voluntariness. Id.; Discoe, 334 N.W.2d at 468; see also Goebel, 2007 ND 4, ¶ 17, 725 N.W.2d 578. We do not conduct a de novo review; rather, we will reverse a district court's determination on voluntariness only if the court's decision is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. Goebel, 2007 ND 4, ¶ 17, 725 N.W.2d 578; State v. Sailer, 500 N.W.2d 886, 888 (N.D.1993); Pickar, 453 N.W.2d at 785.

[¶ 14] Here, in denying Crabtree's motion to suppress evidence, the...

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    • United States
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