The statements below are intended for general information only. They are not intended to be, nor should they be construed as, legal advice. If you need legal advice, you should consult an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of North Dakota. Call us at (701) 223-3874 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your case today.
The police think I may have committed a crime and want to talk to me. Do I have to?
No. You have no legal obligation to talk to law enforcement as a part of a pending investigation if you don't want to.
I've been arrested. The police want to ask me questions. Do I have to answer them?
No. Each person has a constitutional right to remain silent. You have the right to talk to a lawyer before deciding to answer questions from the police.
I've been charged with a crime. What are the different levels of crimes in ND and what could I be facing?
Maximum fine of $1,000.00. Generally, with limited exceptions, no jail may be imposed.
Class B misdemeanor
Maximum of 30 days jail and/or $1,500.00 fine.
Class A misdemeanor
Maximum of 1 year jail and/or $3,000.00 fine.
Class C felony
Maximum of 5 years prison and/or $10,000.00 fine.
Class B felony
Maximum of 10 years prison and/or $20,000.00 fine.
Class A felony
Maximum of 20 years prison and/or $20,000.00 fine.
Class AA felony
I've been charged with a crime. Now what?
The document charging you with a crime will, in most instances, either be a Citation or a Complaint. A Citation is prepared by the officer. It is most commonly used for minor offenses. A Complaint is prepared by the prosecutor. It is usually used for more serious offenses. Either way, there are a number of court appearances that follow.
Initial Appearance. Here, the Court will make sure you understand what you are charged with, what the possible sentence could be, and your rights. Bond (money you must pay or conditions you must follow while the case is pending) may be required, but not always.
Preliminary Hearing (felony cases only). This hearing is usually a few weeks after the Initial Appearance. The Court will decide if there is enough evidence for your felony charge to go to trial. If there is not, the felony gets dismissed.
Arraignment. This is simply where you enter a plea of either "guilty" or "not guilty". In misdemeanor cases this is often done at the time of the Initial Appearance. In felony cases this is done right after the Preliminary Hearing.
Pretrial Conference. This is usually a few weeks after the Initial Appearance or (if a felony) Preliminary Hearing. The purpose is to tell the Court if the case is going to settle or if it needs to keep going on to a trial. If the case does not settle, it moves on to a trial. A trial date can be weeks or months after the pretrial conference, depending on how heavy the court's calendar is and how long it takes each side to be fully ready.
Trial. There are two types of trials. The first is a jury trial. In criminal cases there are either six or twelve people on a jury, depending on the type of case. They hear the evidence, decide what the facts are, and decide if a person is guilty or not guilty. The other is a bench trial. There, a judge, instead of a jury, will hear all the evidence and decide if a person is guilty or not guilty. You can decide if you want a jury trial or a bench trial. Regardless, the prosecutor must prove the case against you "beyond a reasonable doubt", which is the highest level of proof the law recognizes. If you are found not gulty of a charge, there is nothing more to be done.
Sentencing. If you are found guilty of a charge, this is the hearing where the Judge will decide what happens with you. Sometimes this happens right after trial. Sometimes this is held at a later date.
Appeal. If you were found guilty, you have the right to appeal a conviction and sentence to the North Dakota Supreme Court. You only have a certain amount of time after sentencing to start this process. In an appeal you don't get to re-try your case. Instead you try to convince the Court that the conviction is not legally right.
I like to hunt but have been convicted of a crime. Do I lose my firearm rights? Is it possible to get them back?
Generally anyone convicted of a felony, and certain misdemeanors, will lose their firearm rights under both state and federal law. Under state law, the period of time you lose your firearm rights can vary depending on the type of conviction and certain details of your case. There is a process to try and get your firearm rights restored under state law sooner than what would normally be allowed, but that is up to a Judge to decide on a case-by-case basis. Under federal law, you typically lose your firearm rights for life and there is no process to have them restored.