State v. Wilt

Decision Date11 July 1985
Docket NumberCr. N
Citation371 N.W.2d 159
PartiesSTATE of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Theodore WILT, Defendant and Appellant. STATE of North Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Duaine ALTMAN, Defendant and Appellant. os. 1080, 1091.
CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court

Melody R.J. Jensen, Asst. State's Atty., Fargo, for plaintiffs and appellees.

Kirschner & Baker, Fargo, for defendants and appellants, argued by William Kirschner, Fargo.

LEVINE, Justice.

Theodore Wilt and Duaine C. Altman were convicted of issuing checks without sufficient funds in violation of North Dakota Century Code Sec. 6-08-16.

Both Wilt and Altman challenge the validity of their convictions on the very grounds recently rejected by this Court in State v. Clark, 367 N.W.2d 168 (N.D.1985). These challenges therefore are without merit and warrant no further discussion.

Altman further contends that NDCC Sec. 6-08-16 is being unconstitutionally enforced.

In State v. Carpenter, 301 N.W.2d 106 (N.D.1980), and State v. Fischer, 349 N.W.2d 16 (N.D.1984), NDCC Sec. 6-08-16.2 and 6-08-16, respectively, were declared unconstitutional as violating equal protection by creating impermissible wealth-based classifications. Because those statutes provided that payment was an affirmative defense, we held them violative of equal protection on the basis that they impermissibly burdened some individuals, i.e., indigents, while not burdening others similarly situated, i.e., issuers of NSF checks who paid the holder after notice of dishonor. 1

Although Sec. 6-08-16 does not violate equal protection on its face, State v. Mathisen, 356 N.W.2d 129 (N.D.1984), Altman contends that this statute is being discriminatorily enforced by Cass County to produce the identical result that was declared unconstitutional in Carpenter and Fischer. It is clear that a facially neutral statute may violate equal protection in its application or effect. Crawford v. Los Angeles Bd. of Education, 458 U.S. 527, 102 S.Ct. 3211, 73 L.Ed.2d 948 (1982); Mathisen, supra. The Constitution forbids not only discriminatory laws but also discriminatory enforcement of nondiscriminatory laws. Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 6 S.Ct. 1064, 30 L.Ed. 220 (1886).

In Mathisen, we set out the proof necessary to establish discriminatory enforcement.

"To support a defense of selective prosecution a defendant must establish that other individuals similarly situated have not generally been prosecuted and that the State's selection of him for prosecution is invidious or in bad faith; that is, based upon constitutionally impermissible considerations such as wealth." Mathisen, supra at 133.

The record indicates that in Cass County, in the vast majority of cases, the writer of an NSF check is not prosecuted if the check is paid following notice of dishonor. From this evidence Altman argues that Sec. 6-08-16 is being selectively enforced against only those individuals financially unable to satisfy the NSF checks they have issued, i.e., indigents. This, Altman contends, sufficiently demonstrates that a facially neutral statute is being discriminatorily enforced on the basis of wealth.

However, Altman concedes there is no proof that he, or other issuers of NSF checks similarly situated, are indigent. 2 Altman has offered no evidence that Sec. 6-08-16 is being enforced against only those NSF checks writers who are unable to pay, because of indigency, as opposed to those who are simply unwilling to pay or unable to pay for reasons other than indigency. Consequently, Altman has not met the heavy burden of proof necessary to demonstrate a constitutionally impermissible enforcement of a statute. State v. Gamble Skogmo, Inc., 144 N.W.2d 749 (N.D.1966); People v. Macbeth Realty Co., Inc., 100 Misc.2d 926, 420 N.Y.S.2d 252 (N.Y.Supp.1979); Butler v. State, 344 So.2d 203 (Ala.Cr.App.1977).

Altman additionally contended in oral argument that Sec. 6-08-16 was being enforced in a manner which violates Art. I, Sec. 15 of the North Dakota Constitution, which prohibits imprisonment for failure to pay a debt. See State v. McDowell, 312 N.W.2d 301 (N.D.1981), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 981, 103 S.Ct. 318, 74 L.Ed.2d 294 (1982). However, Altman failed to raise this argument either in the trial court or in his appellate brief. An alleged error not raised in the trial court or supported by argument in an appellant's brief need not be considered on appeal. Allen v. Kleven, 306 N.W.2d 629 (N.D.1981); Kern v. Art Schimkat Const. Co., 125 N.W.2d 149 (N.D.1963). The purpose of an appeal is to review the trial court's actions, and not to afford an appellant the opportunity to develop and expound upon new strategies or theories. Edwards v. Thompson, 336 N.W.2d 612 (N.D.1983); Mattis v. Mattis, 274 N.W.2d 201 (N.D.1979). Furthermore, it is well established that we will refrain from deciding constitutional issues, such as the one presented by Altman, unless required to do so by the case before us. Bismarck Public Schools v. Walker, 370 N.W.2d 565 (N.D.1985).

For these reasons we affirm the decision of the trial court.

ERICKSTAD, C.J., and VANDE WALLE, GIERKE and MESCHKE, J., concur.

1 In State v. Mathisen, 356 N.W.2d 129 (N.D.1984), Justice Pederson, in his concurring opinion, raised a troublesome point--namely, that any bad check law is discriminatory against people without funds. However correct...

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9 cases
  • Barrios-Flores v. Levi
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • 16 Mayo 2017
    ...that we will refrain from deciding constitutional issues ... unless required to do so by the case before us." State v. Wilt , 371 N.W.2d 159, 161 (N.D. 1985). Because of the possibility that trial of this case against the remaining defendant might make the constitutional issue raised in thi......
  • Olson v. Bismarck Parks & Recreation Dist.
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • 16 Abril 2002
    ...be granted to all citizens. [¶ 10] A facially neutral statute may violate equal protection in its application or effect. State v. Wilt, 371 N.W.2d 159, 160 (N.D. 1985); State v. Mathisen, 356 N.W.2d 129, 133 (N.D.1984). Generally, a party may only challenge the constitutionality of a statut......
  • State v. Schmitz
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • 10 Noviembre 1988
    ...The Constitution forbids not only discriminatory laws but also discriminatory enforcement of non-discriminatory laws. State v. Wilt, 371 N.W.2d 159, 160 (N.D.1985) (citing Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 6 S.Ct. 1064, 30 L.Ed. 220 In State v. Mathisen, 356 N.W.2d 129, 133 (N.D.1984), this......
  • Williams v. State
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • 4 Mayo 1987
    ...issues presented at oral argument which were never raised before the trial court or in the appellate briefs [ see State v. Wilt, 371 N.W.2d 159, 160-61 (N.D.1985) ], we believe that, because of the nature of the proceedings involved in this action and the number of individuals affected by t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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