Like all states, impaired driving is prohibited in North Dakota. A DUI conviction in North Dakota can lead to months in jail, years without a driver's license, and thousands of dollars in fines. And the criminal statutes that define the offense a more expansive than you might think.
This article will break down the specific requirements for a DUI conviction, explain the possible penalties that result from a DUI conviction, and give some information about programs that might be available to offenders who would like to avoid or reduce some of the penalties that normally result from a conviction.
To convict a driver of DUI in court, prosecutors must prove the offender drove or was in actual physical control of a vehicle:
In other words, a DUI conviction can be based on BAC or actual impairment.
North Dakota's DUI laws apply to anyone who drives or is in actual physical control of a vehicle. We all know what driving means, but what about "actual physical control"?
North Dakota law defines actual physical control as exerting the restraint, direct influence, or domination of a vehicle's movements of machinery. Under this definition, a motorist can be convicted of a DUI without actually putting the vehicle in motion.
A driver can be under the influence by proving actual impairment or by establishing that his or her BAC was .08% or more (often called a "per se DUI").
Proof of a per se DUI charge generally consists of the prosecution presenting chemical test results showing the driver had a BAC that was above the legal limit.
To establish a DUI charge based on driver impairment, the prosecutor must prove the driver was rendered incapable of safely driving due to taking drugs or drinking alcohol. Evidence of impairment might include officer testimony related to observations made during the arrest, such as the driver having slurred speech and poor balance.
A driver can establish a defense to a DUI charge by proving his or her impairment was due to a medication taken as prescribed by a doctor.
The penalties for a DUI conviction generally vary based on the driver's number of prior convictions in the last seven years.
Generally, a first, second, or third DUI conviction will be charged as a misdemeanor. The chart below outlines the range of jail time and fines for a first, second, and third DUI conviction in North Dakota.
Up to 30 days (minimum 2 days if .16% or more BAC)
10 to 30 days
120 to 360 days
$500 to $1,500 (minimum $750 if .16% or more BAC)
$2,000 to $3,000
Again, it's generally only prior convictions that occurred within the past seven years that count.
All persons convicted of a DUI must complete an addiction treatment program evaluation. This process involves the program evaluating the offender's alcohol and drug usage and recommending a treatment program. The court will review this recommendation when determining sentencing and probation requirements.
Offenders who spend time in inpatient treatment (either voluntarily or ordered) can receive credit towards the required jail term. Treatment can also reduce the minimum third-offense jail term to only 60 days.
Judges can place DUI offenders on a period of supervision called probation. Probation is mandatory for repeat offenders for at least 360 days. Probation requires completion of any court-ordered treatment program as well as participation in the state's 24/7 sobriety program.
While not required for a first DUI offense, repeat DUI violations require participation in the 24/7 sobriety program as a condition of probation. Participants are subject to monitored sobriety via SCRAM bracelets, random testing, and drug patch testing. On the upside, participants are generally eligible for a reduction of the normal driver's license penalties.
A DUI can be charged as a felony if the driver caused injury or death, had minor passengers, or has at least three prior DUI convictions.
An offender with at least three prior DUI convictions in the last 15 years will be charged with felony DUI for the fourth offense. A conviction carries 365 days to five years in jail, two years of probation, and a fine of $2,000 to $10,000.
A DUI that results in serious injury to another will be a class C felony and carries one to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. If the offender has prior DUI offenses, the minimum prison time is two years.
Causing the death of another while driving under the influence is a class A felony and carries three to 20 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines. If the offender has prior DUI offenses, the minimum prison time is ten years.
An impaired driver who was over the age of 21 but transporting a passenger under the age of 18 can be charged with a class C felony. A conviction carries up to five years in prison and a maximum $10,000 in fines.
Most DUI violations will result in driver's license penalties, often before the criminal trial. The severity of these penalties depends on the driver's impairment level, cooperation with testing, and criminal history.
License-related penalties can result from a DUI arrest and/or conviction.
Under North Dakota's "implied consent" law, all drivers who are arrested for a DUI are required to provide a sample of their breath, blood, or urine. These tests are used to determine what substances the person may be impaired by (and to what extent). While a driver can refuse to comply with an officer's request for testing, doing so generally will result in penalties.
When a driver refuses to take a lawfully requested chemical test, the officer will seize the driver's license and submit a report to the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Generally, the DMV will then revoke the driver's license for:
When determining the suspension period, all prior test failures, test refusals, and DUI convictions are counted as priors.
If a driver submits to testing and produces a BAC that's at least .08%, the officer will seize the driver's license and forward a report to the DMV. Generally, the DMV will then suspend the driver's license for:
The BAC test result will also be forwarded to the prosecutor for use in criminal court.
A driver will also face license revocation if convicted of a DUI in court. The suspension periods are identical to those for a test failure but do not stack together. In other words, the driver will only serve the longer of the license penalties, whether from test failure, test refusal, or DUI conviction.
Suspended drivers must also complete any court-ordered treatment requirements prior to license reinstatement.
Drivers suspended or revoked due to a DUI test failure, conviction, or test refusal can generally apply to the DMV for a restricted license. This license permits operation during the suspension or revocation period, but the motorist is required to install an ignition interlock device (IID).
Offenders must generally complete 30 days of "hard suspension" before applying, but 24/7 sobriety program participants only need to wait 14 days.
Drivers under the age of 21 years old are prohibited from having a BAC of .02% or more. While not a criminal offense, violators do face license suspension penalties. The suspension periods for underage DUIs are:
Also, underage drivers are subject to the state's implied consent law.
North Dakota has enacted special programs that require intense treatment and sobriety supervision but also greatly reduce many penalties.
For example, some jurisdictions have drug or DUI court programs that can reduce mandatory jail time or even reduce a felony DUI to a misdemeanor. These programs often require inpatient treatment and monitored sobriety (by either SCRAM bracelets or random drug tests).
If you've been arrested for driving under the influence, it's a good idea to get in contact with a DUI attorney in your area. A DUI attorney may be able to negotiate a plea agreement for reduced penalties, identify any viable defenses, and advise you on how best to handle your situation.