What does it mean to get a DUI in North Dakota?
This article provides an in-depth look at North Dakota's DUI laws, detailing the legal BAC limits, the escalating penalties for multiple offenses, and the implications of implied consent and dram shop laws.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a drunk driving accident in North Dakota, understanding the state’s DUI laws is crucial.
This article provides a detailed overview of North Dakota’s driving under the influence (DUI) regulations, including legal definitions, penalties, implied consent laws, dram shop laws, and how to recover damages following a drunk driving accident.
What constitutes a DUI in North Dakota?
Under North Dakota Century Code 39-08-01, a DUI is defined as operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination thereof.
Here are the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits for drivers in North Dakota:
|Type of driver
|Blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
|Drivers over the age of 21
|Drivers under the age of 21
Additionally, you can be charged with a DUI in North Dakota if you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent that you can no longer safely operate a vehicle, even if you consumed less than the legal limit.
Punishments for DUI in North Dakota
The punishments for drunk driving in North Dakota are structured to escalate with each subsequent offense. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the penalties for the first, second, third, and fourth DUI offenses:
|Up to 30 days
|At least 366 days
|At least $2,000
|At least 360 days
For all offenses, DUI offenders in North Dakota are required to complete an addiction treatment program evaluation and follow the recommended treatments, which may include random testing and participation in 24/7 sobriety programs.
The penalties in the chart above are subject to variation based on the specific circumstances of each case and the discretion of the court. Additional factors, such as having a minor in the vehicle or having a BAC over .18, can lead to more severe penalties.
According to the North Dakota Highway Patrol, the state sees anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 DUI arrests every year. For one out of every 140 miles driven in the state, a person with a blood alcohol content over .10 has been behind the wheel.
North Dakota’s implied consent law
Imagine you’re driving home after a night out and get pulled over. The officer suspects you might be under the influence, and they request that you undergo a breathalyzer test. Refusing the test might seem like a good idea to avoid incriminating evidence, but it’s actually quite the opposite. If you refuse, you can immediately be arrested. This is because, when you get behind the wheel in North Dakota, you’re automatically agreeing to submit to a chemical test to determine your BAC if you’re suspected of a DUI.
What’s more, there are automatic penalties, including fines and a license suspension for refusing a test. After all this, you’re still likely to be charged with a DUI, and you’ll have to face independent criminal penalties.
North Dakota’s dram shop laws
Dram shop laws hold establishments that sell alcohol (restaurants, bars, concert venues, etc.) responsible for serving intoxicated patrons who later cause an accident.
North Dakota’s dram shop law can be found in North Dakota Century Code 5-01-06.1. The law states that an establishment will be held liable for damages caused by an intoxicated patron if the establishment sold alcohol to a patron who was under the legal drinking age or “obviously intoxicated.”
Here is a hypothetical to help illustrate North Dakota’s dram shop law:
In a bar in Bismarck, North Dakota, a bartender serves another round of whiskey to a patron who's already slurring his words and struggling to stay upright on his stool. Despite these clear signs of intoxication, the bartender continues to serve him. Later that night, this patron, now heavily intoxicated, decides to drive home. Tragically, he crashes into another vehicle, causing significant injuries to the other driver. Under North Dakota's dram shop law, the injured party has the right to hold the tavern legally responsible for the damages that resulted from the crash.
Drunk driving and personal injury lawsuits
If you’re injured in a car accident caused by an intoxicated driver, you can file an insurance claim as you would in any other car accident. You may need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the intoxicated driver if:
- The driver is uninsured (and you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage)
- The insurance company doesn’t offer you enough money to settle your claim, or
- Your damages exceed the driver’s policy limits.
Liability insurance will cover car accidents caused by an intoxicated driver even though driving while under the influence is an illegal activity. However, most insurance policies will NOT provide the intoxicated driver with collision, comprehensive, or any other type of coverage.
Proving that an intoxicated driver caused your accident is usually as simple as obtaining a police report indicating that the driver was intoxicated. If liability is contested, you should consult with a personal injury attorney.
In North Dakota, a "look-back period" is used in DUI cases to consider previous offenses for sentencing. This period, set at seven years for the first three DUI offenses, serves as a deterrent against repeated DUIs by escalating penalties for multiple violations within this timeframe. However, for the fourth or subsequent DUIs, the look-back period is unlimited, meaning any past DUIs can influence sentencing for a new DUI charge indefinitely.
A diversion program is an alternative to traditional criminal prosecution. It's designed for first-time offenders and typically includes components like education, substance abuse treatment, and community service. The goal is to rehabilitate the offender and prevent future DUI incidents. By participating in and successfully completing such a program, an offender may have their charges reduced or dismissed, emphasizing reform over punishment.
North Dakota offers diversion programs for first-time offenders, which may include education, treatment, and community service.
Expungement of a DUI conviction in North Dakota depends on several factors, including the severity of the offense and the individual's criminal history. Generally speaking, in order for a past DUI conviction to be sealed, an individual previously convicted of the offense must not have another conviction for a DUI or any other criminal offense overall for seven years following the initial DUI.