30th April 2020
If you’re facing a misdemeanor or felony in North Dakota, here’s what you need to know to protect yourself.
If you have recently been arrested in North Dakota, you should understand the arrest process and investigation, the types of criminal offenses in North Dakota, and the court and trial process.
Being charged with a crime is a serious event. Whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, there are a number of consequences that you may be facing. Charges carry with them the potential for consequences such as:
- jail time
- community service
- supervised probation
- chemical testing
What Happens During Investigation and Arrest Phase?
Being charged with a crime generally begins with arrest and investigation. A law enforcement officer at the municipal, county, state, or federal level begins by investigating a potential crime. Investigations can vary in length from minutes to months depending on the alleged crime.
For instance, a DUI investigation generally lasts somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes. The officer pulls a car over, suspects that the driver has been drinking, and then administers field-sobriety tests in order to establish probable cause for an arrest. Other less serious crimes, like theft, may have an investigation period of a few hours or maybe a few days.
However, investigations relating to more serious crimes can last weeks and even months. These crimes include drug distribution, financial crimes like embezzlement, and violent crimes like battery or assault.
The reason for this is because law enforcement is building a case by surveillance of the suspect, interviewing witnesses, and collecting data. These types of investigations generally occur in more serious felony cases and Federal cases.
After the probable cause has been established, law enforcement can then arrest the suspect and take them into custody. Once the suspect has been arrested, they are entitled to certain constitutional rights such as the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent. This is where we step in.
At Sand Law, we always advise our clients not to speak to law enforcement without having an attorney present. There are many nuances and technicalities in the law the members of the general public are unaware of that can significantly hinder their ability to defend themselves against the charges – regardless of whether they are innocent or guilty.
When taken into custody the suspect goes through a booking process where fingerprints and photographs are taken of the individual for record-keeping.
The suspect may then be released by paying a bail amount. Or their case may be set for a bond hearing in front of a judge. The outcome depends on the severity of the charges.
Types of Criminal Offenses in North Dakota
Court Appearances in North Dakota
How a Bond Hearing Works in ND
If a suspect is not released by law enforcement subsequent to their arrest, then the first appearance the individual will make is at a bond hearing. At the bond hearing, the judge will consider arguments from both the defendant or their lawyer and the prosecution. In determining the amount and conditions of bail, the judge will take into consideration factors such as:
- public safety threats
- the defendant’s criminal history
- the defendant’s ties to the community
- whether the defendant is a flight risk
Along with a monetary amount (e.g. $10,000), the judge may assign certain conditions to an individual’s release. Some common conditions include a no-contact order to any victims in the case, that the defendant not consume alcohol during the case, or that the defendant must wear a drug patch to ensure that they stay sober. These conditions stay in effect until the case is closed. Unless the defendant is able to give good cause to the court that they should be modified.
What are Pretrial Court Appearances in North Dakota?
The majority of all misdemeanor criminal cases in North Dakota include a first appearance, pretrial hearing(s), and a trial. For felony cases, every defendant is entitled to a contested preliminary hearing. These generally consist of the arresting law enforcement officer taking the stand and testifying in court. The defendant has a right to cross-examine the officer in an attempt to show the court that there is no probable cause in the case. If the judge determines that there is not enough evidence to establish probable cause, then the case is dismissed. However, if the judge determines that there is adequate probable cause – then the defendant is bound over for trial.
Depending on the jurisdiction the case is being held, many court appearances in North Dakota are waivable under Rule 45. This allows the defendant’s attorney to appear on behalf of the defendant at court appearances without the requirement of the defendant being present. In order to achieve this, the defendant needs to sign certain releases and paperwork with his or her lawyer.
Filing a Motion in North Dakota – The Sand Law Approach
At the start of any criminal case, we will submit a Rule 16 discovery demand to the state’s attorney. Under North Dakota law, this allows us to collect all of the evidence the state has against you. Evidence usually consists of police reports, audio/video recordings, witness statements, chemical test results, photographs, or lab reports. At this point, multiple attorneys and support staff will go through your file with a fine-toothed comb looking for any factual, constitutional, statutory, or other legal issues that we can raise to the court.
If there are substantive issues in the case, we then draft a motion to suppress or dismiss certain evidence. Oftentimes the evidence we seek to suppress has to do with statements or actions made by our clients that may be incriminating to the case. Other examples include chemical test results or physical evidence that is unreliable.
The suppression or dismissal of evidence in a criminal case is an important tool because it weakens the prosecution’s ability to convince a jury at trial that the defendant is guilty. This brings us to the next stage in the process – negotiating.
How Plea Negations Work in North Dakota
In almost every criminal case in North Dakota, there are plea negotiations between the prosecution and the defense. Effective plea negotiating often starts with the client and what they are hoping happens with the case. Many times the client does not want a felony conviction on their record so we will negotiate the charges down to a misdemeanor level or seek a deferred judgment – which results in the charges being ultimately dismissed subject to certain conditions. Other times clients want to avoid jail time. We may then propose that the client perform community service or some other form of service. Regardless of the negotiation, it is always the client’s decision whether to settle the case or to proceed to trial in the case.
North Dakota’s Criminal Trial Process
In North Dakota, every person charged with a crime has the right to take their case to a jury trial. Our attorneys are very experienced in trying cases to juries. See our CASE RESULTS section of our website to see some of our impressive victories. At trial, the State’s Attorney has to prove to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the offense you have been accused of. We take a proactive approach and establish our side of the story instead of sitting back and reacting to the prosecution’s allegations. This is the Sand Law difference.
North Dakota Federal Charges
Many of the charges that Sand Law deals with are on the state level. Charges such as burglary, assault, and DUI are common offenses that, while serious, are only really handled on the state level. However, it does not take much for some charges to be made on the federal level which is when the national government steps into the equation.
The charges that someone faces on the federal level will pretty much always be much more severe than state-level charges even if they are somewhat similar in type. For example, drug charges for possession can turn into drug trafficking and distribution charges on the federal level which are much more severe and are tried in federal court. People can actually be charged on both the federal and state levels at the same time. Federal charges will typically be a matter of offenses that take place across several states. Or offenses that involve federal property.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota is responsible for prosecuting federal crimes here in the state of North Dakota and is also involved in the prosecution of all violent crimes that occur within the Fort Berthold Reservation, the Spirit Lake Reservation, and the Turtle Mountain Reservation. Facing federal charges takes specific knowledge and skills that many criminal defense attorneys do not have. Sand Law has handled many cases involving federal charges and can take on federal prosecutors in defense of common North Dakota federal charges such as drug trafficking, sexual abuse, and firearm-related charges.
Learn more about the Criminal Defense Lawyers at Sand Law
Our experienced attorneys at Sand Law handle cases throughout the entire State of North Dakota. Sand Law PLLC has offices in:
- Minot Sand Law Office
- Bismarck Sand Law Office
- Watford City Sand Law Office
- Williston Sand Law Office
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in North Dakota, contact Sand Law about your case. Our attorneys have years of experience when it comes to the defense of those in need of award-winning legal counsel. When you hire Sand Law, you are hiring a firm that can back up their claims of efficient criminal defense not with promises of success but case history of confirmed successful defense that has provided many clients with invaluable legal insight and representation. Don’t settle for just a criminal defense attorney. Consider Sand Law for your legal counsel and ally in a time when facing the legal system can come with a number of complexities and challenges that should be handled with only the resources, expertise, and experience that Sand Law can provide.
CONTACT US today to schedule a free consultation. Let us help you decide what legal options are available to you.