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BUCKLE UP ND! New Criminal Law Updates for North Dakota: August 2023

Every two years the North Dakota State Legislature convenes and passes new legislation that either changes, updates, or modifies existing law or even introduces completely new laws entirely.  This posting is my assessment of the newest legislative changes to criminal laws in the State of North Dakota, which are set to take effect August 1, 2023.  There are bound to be more updates and changes than those highlighted here, but this is a basic overview of some of the more noticeable changes.

Seat Belt Violations are now PRIMARY violations

North Dakota has traditionally allowed law enforcement to cite individuals for a seat belt violation if the person is already stopped for another offense (either traffic or criminal violations).  Such a seatbelt violation was known as a secondary offense.  However, now it will be treated as a primary offense.  This means that police may conduct a traffic stop for drivers observed not wearing a seatbelt.  While the penalty remains a small fine, the implications are huge.  Otherwise law-abiding drivers will be subject to stop, search, and questioning if an officer cannot see that the driver or front seat passenger is wearing a seatbelt.  Seatbelts must be worn by all occupants of the motor vehicle.

How will this change affect people?

The new seatbelt as a primary violation law will undoubtedly lead to more traffic stops and a greater number of investigations for offenses observed after such a stop (DUI, drug possession in the vehicle, etc…).  Police officer who have stopped a motor vehicle can conduct multiple types of searches based on their observations, suspicions, and consent from the people inside the vehicle.  It is clear that an increase in stopped vehicles will undoubtedly lead to more investigation into impaired driving and illegal possession of contraband inside the vehicle.  If you are stopped by police for this type of violation, you should immediately seek out the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney here in North Dakota!



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