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North Dakota Criminal Law

If you were charged with a criminal offense, you may have more opportunities for negotiating your penalties than you realize. Each criminal offense works within a range of penalties defined by their classification, so instead of accepting the maximum penalty for your offense, you could work with an attorney to potentially have the penalties reduced.

Use LawInfo’s criminal law articles to help educate yourself about North Dakota’s laws and how they affect your case. You can learn about the difference between misdemeanors and felonies, intoxicated driving charges and many other state-specific criminal law topics. You can also use LawInfo to connect with a North Dakota criminal law attorney in Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks or elsewhere in the state.

Degrees of Homicide in North Dakota

North Dakota’s criminal laws recognize that not every homicide case deserves the same punishment. A parent whose forgetfulness caused their child to die in a hot car may not deserve the sentence of a felon who killed a person they were robbing. Therefore, the state distinguishes homicide as murder, manslaughter or negligent homicide.

Murder is the most serious of the different types of homicide charges. Most types of murders are classified as class AA felonies. Only a “heat of passion” murder—one in which the offender killed their victim due to an extreme emotional disturbance—is classified as a less serious class A felony offense. Murder is differentiated from the other types of homicide by criminal intent. It is also the only homicide offense that can receive a life imprisonment sentence.

Manslaughter is simply an unintentional killing caused by the offender’s recklessness. An example may be when a joyriding driver loses control of their vehicle and gets into an accident that kills a passenger or a bystander. This type of homicide offense is a class B felony.

Negligent homicide, which is a class C felony, is penalized less severely than murder and manslaughter. The earlier example of a parent accidentally killing their child in a hot car may be identified as a negligent homicide. This type of homicide is caused when the offender’s criminal negligence causes the death of the victim.

Crime Classifications in North Dakota

Every state has its own system of classifying crimes which also identifies the statutory punishments for each classification. North Dakota has two main criminal offense classifications, in order of seriousness: felonies and misdemeanors. The state also has one non-criminal offense classification, infractions, which is less serious than misdemeanors.

Felonies and misdemeanors are further divided into different classes, each of which carries maximum penalties that include fines and imprisonment. These classes and maximum penalties include (in order of most to least serious):

  • Class AA felonies—Life imprisonment without parole.
  • Class A felonies—20 years’ imprisonment, a $20,000 fine or both.
  • Class B felonies—10 years’ imprisonment, a $20,000 fine or both.
  • Class C felonies—5 years’ imprisonment, a $10,000 fine or both.
  • Class A misdemeanors—360 days’ imprisonment, a $3,000 fine, or both.
  • Class B misdemeanors—30 days’ imprisonment, a $1,500 fine or both.

Infractions aren’t sentenced to imprisonment. Instead, they are penalized with up to a $1,000 fine.

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