North Dakota prohibits driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or any other intoxicating substances. This article will explain how the use of different substances can lead to an impaired driving conviction, some potential defenses, and the possible penalties for a conviction.
A driver is considered under the influence if the consumed drugs or other substances have rendered him or her incapable of safely driving.
Proof of impairment. During a DUI stop, the officer will often use special drug recognition tests to determine if the driver is impaired. To prove a DUI at trial, the prosecutor might use evidence such as the testimony of officers related to observations of impairment, blood test results showing what drugs were in the driver's system, and expert testimony related to the impairing effects of the relevant drugs. North Dakota doesn't have a per se limit for drugs (similar to the .08% alcohol limit), so the prosecution must prove actual impairment rather than just the amount of drugs in the driver's system.
Impairing substances. North Dakota statutes don't explicitly set out what substances can lead to a DUI conviction. But the courts have held that any drug—prescription, over the counter, or illicit—can lead to a DUI if it causes impairment. The fact that the driver was using medication as prescribed by a physician can be presented as an affirmative defense (meaning, the driver must establish the defense) to an impaired driving charge.
The penalties for drugged driving are generally the same as those for drunk driving. North Dakota counts all DUI within the last seven years when calculating prior offenses.
First offense. A first-offense DUI will result in up to 30 days in jail and a $500 to $1,500 fine. The offender must complete an addiction evaluation and follow all evaluation recommendations. Recommendations might include substance abuse treatment or 24/7 sobriety monitoring.
Second offense. A second DUI will result in ten to 30 days in jail and $1,500 in fines. The offender must complete the addiction evaluation and recommended treatment but is also required to complete 365 days of 24/7 sobriety monitoring.
Drug Court. North Dakota has a special program for handling drug-related offenses including drugged driving. Repeat offenders or violators with prior drug problems can voluntarily enroll in the program. The program requires monitored sobriety, self-help meetings, and vocational requirements. However, successful completion of the program can greatly reduce the consequences of a DUI.
Pursuant to North Dakota's implied consent statutes, all drivers suspected of impaired driving generally must submit to a blood, breath, saliva, or urine test to determine the presence of alcohol or drugs. A driver who refuses testing is subject to immediate license seizure. An unlawful refusal will result in a 180-day revocation for a first offense and a two-year revocation for a second offense.
A driver's license will also be suspended for 91 days for a drug-related DUI conviction. A second offense in seven years mandates a 365-day suspension. However, a restricted license is available for participants in the 24/7 sobriety program.