North Dakota DUI Laws, Penalties, Fines & Overview

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In North Dakota, a person faces a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction if driving or otherwise in control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of both. The state usually considers driving under the influence to be a misdemeanor unless there are prior convictions within a certain number of years or if injury or death occurred, according to North Dakota Century Code Section 39-08-01. Under these particular circumstances, the infraction becomes a felony.

Drivers charged with DUI face severe penalties including fines, jail time, license suspension or revocation, addiction counseling and probation. While the costs may not seem significant, they can, and do, add up. According to the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT), a driver can pay up to $10,000 in various fines and fees due to DUI infraction. A DUI will stay on a driver's record for seven years and someone with one or more DUI convictions can also face problems with employment or finding a residence.

Drunk Driving Laws in North Dakota

According to NOLO, it is illegal for a driver to be in actual physical control of a vehicle while impaired. North Dakota defines this as "real, not hypothetical, bodily restraining or directing influence over, or domination and regulation of, its movements of machinery." A vehicle does not have to be in motion for a driver to receive a DUI charge – they can simply fall asleep in the driver's seat while impaired for an arrest to occur.

If a person has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher, they face DUI charges. Even those with a lower BAC can face charges. If a driver has a commercial license, the BAC limit is 0.04 percent. If they are under 21, the state considers a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher as impaired. Law enforcement can also arrest someone who shows obvious signs of impairment, even if their BAC isn't at these levels.

First and Second Offense DUI Penalties

First and second DUIs are typically Class B misdemeanor charges, according to the NDDOT. A first offense DUI carries these penalties:

  • $500 fine if the driver's BAC is 0.16 percent or lower.
  • $750 fine and a two day jail sentence if the driver's BAC is 0.16 percent or higher.
  • 91-day license suspension for a BAC of below 0.18 percent.
  • 180-day license suspension for a BAC of above 0.18 percent.
  • Addiction screening.

A driver faces a second offense DUI if the subsequent offense occurs within seven years of the first. The penalties are:

  • $1,500 fine and 10 days in jail.
  • 360 days in the state's 24/7 sobriety program.
  • 365-day license suspension for a BAC of below 0.18 percent.
  • Two-year license suspension for a BAC of above 0.18 percent.
  • Addiction screening.
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device (IID).

Third DUI Offense and Felony DUIs

A third DUI offense within seven years is a Class A misdemeanor. It carries these penalties:

  • $2,000 fine and 120 days in jail.
  • 360 days in the state's 24/7 sobriety program.
  • Supervised probation for 360 days.
  • Two-year license suspension for a BAC of below 0.18 percent.
  • Three-year license suspension for a BAC of above 0.18 percent.
  • Addiction screening.
  • Installation of an IID.

Four or more DUI offenses within 15 years is a Class C felony. It carries with it one year, plus one day in jail; a $2,000 fine; two years in the state's 24/7 sobriety program; supervised probation for two years; and addiction screening. Additional penalties apply in these instances:

  • DUI with a minor passenger: One year in jail and a possible fine of $2,000.
  • Criminal Vehicular Injury: Five years in prison.
  • Criminal Vehicular Homicide: Up to 20 years in prison.
  • Supervised probation for two years.
  • Addiction screening.
  • Installation of an IID.

Administrative DUI Penalties

According to Your DUI Legal Guide, law enforcement will suspend a driver's license immediately following a DUI arrest. The driver can file an appeal within 10 days of receiving the citation. Eligibility for a temporary restricted license is available 25 days after a DUI citation. This gives the offender limited driving privileges, allowing them to get to work, school or court during the time their case is active.

An administrative license suspension is independent of a criminal license suspension. The penalties are:

  • First offense: 91- or 180-day suspension based on the driver's BAC.
  • Two or more offenses: one- or two-year suspension, based on the driver's BAC.
  • Zero tolerance/drivers under 21: 91- or 180-day suspension based on the driver's BAC and any prior convictions.

Marijuana DUI and Penalties

In 2016, North Dakota legalized medical marijuana, but it is still illegal for recreational use, according to Fremstad Law. Law enforcement treats driving under the influence of marijuana much in the same way it does alcohol, but the state does not have a legal limit for THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) in a driver's system. An officer will perform a traffic stop if they suspect that a person cannot safely operate a vehicle due to marijuana impairment. In comparison to sober drivers, those under the influence of cannabis often react more slowly, have decreased visual perception and find it more difficult to multitask while operating a vehicle.

For a driver to receive a marijuana DUI, the arresting officer relies on their own perception to gauge impairment. They may ask the driver to perform a field sobriety test or request a urine or blood sample. If the driver refuses chemical testing, they face penalties above and beyond that of a standard DUI. Drivers who receive a DUI as the result of marijuana impairment do not automatically face jail time, but do face these penalties:

  • $500 to $2,000 fine, plus court fees.
  • Mandatory addiction screening.
  • Mandatory probation.
  • Driver's license revocation.
  • Possible participation in the state's 24/7 sobriety program.

North Dakota Implied Consent Law

When a driver obtains a North Dakota license, they automatically consent to a chemical test in the event an officer stops them on suspicion of DUI, according to North Dakota Century Code Section 39-20-01. The test can take the form of giving breath, blood or urine samples at law enforcement's request. Drivers can refuse the test, but this decision leads to a one-year automatic suspension for the first refusal, a three-year suspension for the second refusal within five years, and a four-year suspension for the third offense within five years. Underage drivers face a one- to four-year license suspension period for refusing to take a chemical test.

Drivers who refuse a chemical test and receive a license suspension can "cure" the refusal with a guilty plea within 25 days of receiving a temporary driver's license. They must also file an affidavit with the NDDOT stating they agree to the guilty plea and, in doing so, waive their right to challenge the revocation of their license. Drivers who cure refusal will still face license suspension based on the number of prior DUI offenses they've incurred within a seven-year period.

24/7 Sobriety Program

According to the North Dakota Attorney General's Office, the state has a 24/7 Sobriety Program, in existence since January 2008. The court may order a driver's participation in the program as a condition of bond, pretrial release, sentencing or probation for violations that involve alcohol or drugs. This is one way an offender can receive a restricted driver's license. The attorney general cannot place a driver in the program, nor can an offender elect to participate of their own accord.

Drivers arrested for two or more DUIs must refrain from drinking as a condition of bond. They must also report to law enforcement for testing and placement in the program. If they fail the test, an officer will immediately take them into custody. If they don't show up to take the test, they face an automatic bond revocation. The driver must pay testing fees when they participate in the program. They are:

  • PBT (breath test): $1 per test or $2 per day.
  • SCRAM (bracelet): A monitoring fee of $6 per day.
  • Drug patch: $55 each.
  • U/A (urinalysis): $5 per test with an additional $25 lab fee.

North Dakota Open Container Law

North Dakota's open container law applies to both drivers and passengers. The vehicle's owner is responsible for infractions even if not present, and they can be cited. The law prohibits any driver or passenger from having an alcoholic beverage in a vehicle on a public highway or parking lot if it:

  • has a broken seal or is otherwise open.
  • is partially empty.
  • is at least 0.5 percent alcohol by volume. (Non-alcoholic beer and other low-alcohol beverages are exempt).

The only place it is legal to carry an open container is in the vehicle's trunk or in another unoccupied area, but the state exempts passengers and open containers in some instances. Passengers in vehicles for hire, such as taxis, buses or limousines, are exempt, as are those in the living areas of RVs and campers. However, a solid partition must separate the area from the vehicle's driving compartment, and alcohol consumption cannot occur while the vehicle is in motion. An open container infraction carries a $50 fine and will be on the offender's driving record.

DUI and CDL Drivers

Fremstad Law states that commercial drivers face harsh consequences for driving while under the influence, and a driver who loses their license also loses the ability to work. Drivers with a commercial driver's license (CDL) face license disqualification due to DUI if they:

  • were driving a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04 percent or higher.
  • received a DUI charge in a noncommercial motor vehicle.
  • refused blood alcohol testing.

A driver's first DUI offense carries a one-year disqualification of their CDL or three years if they were hauling hazardous materials at the time of the stop. A second offense carries a lifetime disqualification, but eligibility for reinstatement is possible 10 years after their arrest. Drivers who receive a CDL disqualification must notify their employer by the end of the next business day after it occurs. To have their CDL reinstated after a DUI offense, the DUI offender must satisfy all court requirements, complete a substance abuse education and treatment program, retake the necessary tests and pay a $100 reinstatement fee.