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DUI In North Dakota

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What is a DUI in North Dakota?

A DUI in North Dakota refers to the crime of operating a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating or inebriating substances. In North Dakota, the law enforcement agencies, court system, and the North Dakota Department of Transportation are committed to enforcing the drunk driving statutes to the fullest extent possible. These organizations impose criminal and administrative sanctions for DUI charges, including jail time, hefty fines, compulsory DUI courses, and license suspensions. All of these repercussions, including having a DUI featured on their North Dakota criminal record can have a profound effect on a person's life.

What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI in North Dakota?

Driving under the influence is referred to as a DUI, whereas driving while impaired is referred to as DWI. In some states, DUI and DWI are interchangeable, and in others, the two designations have distinct meanings.

North Dakota considers drunk driving offenses as DUIs. When there are grounds to believe that someone is too intoxicated to drive a vehicle in North Dakota, state law enforcement officers can detain the individual and charge them with a DUI. Usually, the impairment is caused by the use of substances such as alcohol or narcotics.

North Dakota DUI Laws

Title 39, Section 8 of the North Dakota Century Code governs driving under the influence (DUI) offenses in North Dakota. Generally, North Dakota's DUI rules prohibit driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent, or while under the influence of any prohibited substance, alcohol, or a combination thereof.

The law further defines "actual physical control" of a vehicle as "real (not hypothetical), bodily restraining or directing influence over, or domination and regulation of, its machinery movements". What this means is that North Dakota does not require vehicle movement, a running vehicle, or even a conscious driver to bring DUI charges against a person.

North Dakota's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits

The following are the BAC (blood alcohol concentration) limits for drivers and in North Dakota:

  • Adult driver (over 21 years old): North Dakota prohibits adult drivers from operating any motor vehicle with a .08 percent or more BAC.
  • Drivers under 21: It is illegal for drivers under 21 to operate a motor vehicle with a BAC of .02 percent or more.
  • Commercial drivers: Drivers of commercial vehicles are prohibited from operating any commercial motor vehicle with a BAC of .04 percent or more.

Motorists with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above the state limit may be arrested or convicted of a DUI offense.

Additionally, under North Dakota laws, motorists can be prosecuted for violating the state's DUI laws on two principal grounds: impairment and per se. If both grounds are violated, the offender's sentence will be severe.


A motorist can be arrested on the grounds of impairment if they cannot properly operate their vehicle (usually due to the effect of drugs or alcohol). If the person cannot walk a straight path or is caught driving erratically, they may be charged with impairment. In court, the offender's driving behavior and physical symptoms will be used to assess whether they are guilty of drunk driving or not.

Per Se

In this case, a person can be arrested for driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .08 percent.

DUI Penalties in North Dakota

When a person is convicted of a DUI in North Dakota, a judge will determine the penalties the person will receive based on the number of DUI offenses committed in the past seven years. The offender's BAC (blood alcohol concentration) can also play a factor in the severity of the punishment. The DUI penalties include:

  • Incarceration
  • Fines
  • License suspension
  • Addiction evaluation and treatment
  • Probation

In North Dakota, the first, second, and third DUI offenses are misdemeanors, and fourth and subsequent offenses are felonies. However, a DUI charge can be elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony if these aggravating elements exist:

  • Accidents that result in injury: A DUI that causes serious bodily harm to another person is a class C felony. The penalty is an incarceration sentence of one to five years (two-year minimum prison sentence if the offender has a previous DUI conviction) and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Accidents that result in death: A DUI that results in a death is considered a class A felony. The convicted driver faces three to twenty years in jail (ten-year minimum if the offender has previous DUIs) and a fine of up to $20,000.
  • Traveling with minor passengers: A class C felony can be imposed on a person of at least 21 years old who had a minor passenger in the car at the time of the offense. A class C felony carries a maximum imprisonment sentence of five years and a fine of up to $10,000.

Penalties Under North Dakota's Implied Consent Laws

In North Dakota, the implied consent laws make it illegal to refuse a chemical test to check for intoxication when stopped for a DUI. Per the law, anyone with a North Dakota driver's license is presumed to have consented to a chemical test to check for the presence of alcohol or other restricted substances. As such, refusing to take a test or failing to pass a test can result in license suspension.

The length of this license suspension is determined by whether an individual took the test and their BAC results. If the driver took the test and their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .08 percent or greater, the individual's license will be suspended for 91 days for a first offense. If the individual commits a second offense within seven years, their license will be suspended for 365 days. Upon a third or subsequent offense within seven years, the license will be suspended for two years.

On the other hand, if a driver's BAC was .16 percent or greater or the person refused to take the chemical test, their license could be suspended for the following durations:

  • For a first offense, 180 days
  • For a second offense within seven years, two years
  • For a third or subsequent offense within seven years, three years

Apart from losing driving privileges, refusing to submit to on-site screening tests in North Dakota is a criminal offense that carries the same punishment as a DUI charge.

Treatment for Substance Abuse

All DUI offenders must undergo a substance abuse (addiction) evaluation and follow the resulting recommendations. Depending on the case, a 24/7 sobriety program, including alcohol monitoring, random testing, and drug patch testing, may be recommended. Inpatient rehabilitation can be used to reduce the minimum jail sentence for a DUI conviction.

North Dakota also has a drug court system. While drug court participants usually have to go through a more intensive substance misuse treatment than other offenders, successful completion of such treatments can reduce the negative implications of a DUI conviction.

What Happens When You Get a DWI in North Dakota?

There are no DWI provisions in North Dakota's legislature. Drunk or drugged driving offenses are prosecuted as DUIs in the state.

What Happens When You Get a DUI for the First Time in North Dakota?

First-time DUIs in North Dakota are Class B misdemeanors that carry the following penalties:

  • Up to 30 days in jail. (A minimum of 2 days in jail if one's BAC is above .16 percent, 91 days if it is below .18 percent, and 180 days if it is greater than .18 percent.)
  • A fine of $500 to $1,500. ($500 for a BAC below .16 and $750 for a BAC of .16 or higher.)
  • 91-day driver's license suspension. (The suspension period will be extended to180 days if the offender's BAC is 0.18% or more)
  • Substance abuse evaluation and treatment.

If an offender's driver's license is not suspended or revoked, they can engage in the 24-hour sobriety program rather than face an administrative hearing. A first-time DUI offender may also be eligible for a temporary restricted work permit license after serving the first 30 days of suspension. (15 days if engaging in the sobriety program.)

What is the Penalty for a Second DUI in North Dakota?

A second DUI conviction is a Class B misdemeanor in North Dakota, but the penalty is greater if the second conviction occurs within seven years of the first. Penalties for a second DUI offense include:

  • A fine of at least $1,500.
  • At least ten days imprisonment. (48 hours must be served consecutively.)
  • At least 360 days (12 months) of a 24/7 sobriety program.
  • Mandatory chemical dependency evaluation.
  • Driver's license suspension: If the second DUI occurs within seven years, the driver's license will be suspended for 365 days. If it happened more than seven years ago, the suspension period is 180 days. Furthermore, if the offender's BAC was .18 percent or above, the suspension might last up to two years.
  • Ignition interlock device for a period to be determined by the court.
  • Possible seizure, forfeiture, sale, or disposal of the vehicle used to commit the offense.

What Happens After a Third DUI in North Dakota?

In North Dakota, a third DUI offense within seven years of a previous one is a Class A misdemeanor. It is punishable by:

  • A minimum fine of $2,000.
  • A minimum of 120 days in jail. (If a person completes an evaluation for a substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation program and completes a 24-7 sobriety program, the court may postpone all but sixty days of incarceration.)
  • Chemical dependency evaluation.
  • A 360-day supervised probation period, as well as a 360-day 24/7 sobriety program.
  • Driver's license suspension for two years (three years for a .18 percent or more BAC).
  • Ignition interlock device for a period to be determined by the court.

It is worth noting that any fourth or subsequent offense is deemed a class C felony in North Dakota, regardless of the length of time since a previous offense or conviction. Fourth and subsequent offenses within fifteen years of the previous offenses are penalized with

  • A fine of at least $2,000
  • One year and one day of imprisonment
  • Three-year driver's license suspension
  • Supervised probation for a minimum of two years, and
  • Participation in an addiction program.

The court may suspend all but one year imprisonment if the offender completes an evaluation for a substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation program. The court may also mandate an offender to install an ignition interlock for some time. Furthermore, the offender's vehicle may be seized, forfeited, sold, or otherwise disposed of.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in North Dakota?

In North Dakota, a DUI conviction remains on an offender's criminal record until it is sealed or erased. However, it will stay on an offender's driving record for seven years.

North Dakota uses a look-back period to dissuade offenders from committing additional DUIs and punish those with numerous convictions. A "look-back period" is the amount of time that earlier crimes can be used to strengthen the penalties of a current DUI charge. For first, second, and third offenses, the look-back period is seven years, but for fourth and subsequent offenses, the look-back period is a lifetime. After this period passes, the penalties for a subsequent offense may be reduced, and the individual may become eligible for record sealing/expungement.

DUI Expungement in North Dakota

An expungement in North Dakota refers to the removal of a conviction from a person's criminal record. Meanwhile, sealing a record simply prevents the conviction from being viewed by the general public or potential employers. In North Dakota, DUI convictions can only be sealed, not expunged. However, law enforcement and the courts would still be able to view the sealed conviction.

Under the law, deferred sentence cases are automatically sealed once an offender satisfies their sentence. In addition, courts can seal wrongful arrest records or electronic records when the charges were dismissed or the defendant was acquitted. Furthermore, provided a DUI conviction was a minor offense with no aggravating circumstances surrounding the arrest, the conviction may be eligible for sealing.

For a DUI conviction to be sealed, the person convicted of the charge must not be convicted of another DUI or any other criminal offense within seven years of the previous DUI. Note that commercial drivers do not qualify for record sealing.

How to Seal a DUI Record in North Dakota

When creating a petition to seal a DUI record, the following information must be included:

  • Complete name, including other legal names
  • All residential addresses lived in from the violation date to the petition date
  • Justification for the petition
  • Criminal history

The petition must include a proposed order permitting the criminal record to be sealed. Lastly, the petition must be served on the prosecuting attorney, as required by the North Dakota Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Following the filing of the petition, the court will convene to hear the case. This hearing cannot be scheduled until 45 days have passed from the filing. This gives the prosecution time to notify law enforcement, witnesses, victims, and correctional authorities acquainted with the petitioner and the offense.

The court may approve a petition to seal a record if it finds that the individual has met all statutory requirements. Typically, the court considers the following factors:

  • If the petitioner demonstrated a good reason for the petition to be granted
  • If the petitioner has served all jail and probation terms for the offense
  • The type and seriousness of the crime
  • The threat that the petitioner poses to society

The court will either grant or deny the petition after the hearing. The record will be sealed if the court grants the petition. If the court denies the petition, the record will not be sealed, and the petitioner must wait three (3) years before filing a new petition.

An individual cannot appeal a petition that the district court denied. However, it may be possible to appeal to the district court if a municipal court denied the petition.

How Likely is Jail Time After a First DUI in North Dakota?

Not likely for a first-time offender in North Dakota unless the individual had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .15%.

Generally, a first DUI offense is punishable by up to 30 days in jail, but the court may convert each day of imprisonment into 10 hours of community service. Hence, the offender may avoid jail time altogether.

What is the Average Cost of DUI in North Dakota?

There are monetary and non-monetary expenses involved with a DUI conviction in North Dakota. A DUI conviction can cost tens of thousands of dollars in financial penalties. The following are some examples:

  • Fees and fines imposed by the court: DUI fines in North Dakota range from $500 to $2,000, depending on the severity of the offense.
  • Legal fees: These fees vary based on the case and the lawyer's experience.
  • Property damage: DUIs often result in crashes, which result in vehicle repair expenses.
  • Increased insurance rates.
  • Health-care costs: Physical injuries are another unpleasant consequence of drunk driving accidents. Medical costs associated with DUIs are usually high, especially if the victim does not have health insurance.
  • License reinstatement fees.

Auto insurance and legal fees are the most significant financial obligations associated with a DUI conviction. A DUI lawyer can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000, while insurance can double or triple the original amount, or the policy supplier may cancel the coverage.

Nevertheless, not all expenses associated with DUIs are calculable. An offender may also incur other costs (known as non-monetary costs) that may be more significant than tangible costs. These include pain and suffering, shame and guilt, stigma, loss of friendships, and emotional distress.

How Much is Bail for a DUI in North Dakota?

North Dakota typically demands a $250 to $500 bail bond for DUIs and reckless driving crimes. For severe charges, which take more time to process, the arresting officer may set bail via a bail bond schedule, or a judge may be needed to set the bail bond amount.

How to Get My License Back After a DUI in North Dakota?

When the North Dakota Department of Transportation suspends an individual's license because of a DUI, the individual has three options to get back the license:

Request an Administrative Hearing

Individuals may challenge their license suspension by requesting an administrative hearing within ten days of receiving the suspension notice. It is important to have representation for such proceedings to increase one's chances of regaining their driving privileges.

If the individual succeeds at the hearing, the license will be reinstated. The individual may still be required to pay fines and enroll in programs, such as the 24/7 sobriety program.

If the administrative hearing does not go in the individual's favor, the lawyer can help them file a court appeal to have the outcome re-examined. This will give them a second chance to lift their suspension. The attorney can also help the individual obtain a work permit 30 days after the arrest, which will allow them to drive to and from work. Usually, only individuals arrested with a low blood alcohol content (BAC) and who do not appear to be at risk of repeat offending are granted work permits.

Apply for a North Dakota Temporary Restricted License (TRL)

Obtaining a restricted license is also a means of regaining one's license after a DUI in North Dakota. After serving 30 days of a driver's license suspension period, an individual may be eligible for a restricted license. They will also need legal assistance to go through the procedure because not all applications are approved.

On approval, the beneficiary will be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicle. The individual will also need to pay the monthly service costs for the maintenance of an IID.

Request Driver's License Reinstatement

After the driver's license suspension period, a person can file for license reinstatement with the DOT. However, they must:

  • Ensure that all court-ordered requirements are met.
  • Pay all court-levied fines and fees.
  • Pay the reinstatement fee. (The cost of reinstatement varies based on the severity of the suspension: $25, $50, or $100.)
  • Complete a comprehensive alcohol rehabilitation program (if applicable)
  • Install an ignition interlock device (if applicable)

How Does a DUI Affect Your Life in North Dakota?

Aside from the financial burden of a DUI conviction, an offender will be liable to other life-altering repercussions. This is because a DUI conviction results in a criminal record, and if such a record remains unsealed, it can ruin a person's life in many ways. For instance, a DUI can:

  • Bar a person from professions that require a clean criminal background or driving record.
  • Prevent a person from acquiring a commercial driver's license.
  • Cause the revocation or suspension of a person's driving privileges.
  • Make it more challenging to obtain professional licenses or advanced degrees.
  • Put an existing professional license or security clearance in jeopardy.
  • Make it more difficult to rent a home or qualify for government assistance.
  • Result in insurance problems (policy cancellation or increase).

Can You Get Fired for a DUI in North Dakota?

Yes, it is possible to get fired for a DUI in North Dakota. Regardless, this possibility is determined by several circumstances, including the type of job and the company's employment rules regarding criminal offenses such as DUIs.

How Do I Find DUI Checkpoints in North Dakota?

North Dakota utilizes DUI checkpoints to prevent drunk driving. These checkpoints are enforcement tools set up on roadways by law enforcement to stop vehicles and check for impaired drivers. The checkpoints are usually set up during high-risk periods, such as holidays, weekends, or large events.

Although DUI checkpoints are controversial in the US, the Supreme Court of North Dakota rules in favor of checkpoints, making them legal in the state. However, state law mandates that some rules be followed before these checkpoints can be executed to avoid violating human rights.

One important rule is ensuring that each checkpoint is announced to the public in advance. To fulfill this condition, state/local police and other participating law enforcement agencies are mandated by law to disclose DUI checkpoints. As a result, state and county police announce their checkpoints on their public websites and via press releases. For instance, the North Dakota State Highway Patrol provides information about DUI checkpoints across the state. Many news stations and private websites also keep locals informed about DUI checkpoints.

Which is Worse, DUI vs. DWI?

In jurisdictions where DUI and DWI offenses are treated separately, DWIs are the more serious drunk driving offenses. This is because DWIs are commonly associated with higher degrees of intoxication.

However, North Dakota tries all drunk driving cases as DUIs. The seriousness of this offense is usually determined by the number of DUI convictions an offender has and whether or not any aggravating circumstances exist. Factors that could result in severe DUI penalties include a fourth or subsequent DUI offense, fatality, property damage, or a DUI committed while a minor is in the vehicle.