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North Dakota Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws

Any type of sexual activity that is non-consensual is a criminal act by definition. However, there are some instances where even consensual sexual activities may be prohibited by state law, typically when it involves third parties. For example, having intercourse in a public park or exposing yourself to passersby would both be considered illegal under virtually all state laws.

While a minority of states continue to have anti-sodomy laws that criminalize "unnatural" sex acts and are meant to target LGBTQIA+ individuals, the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas found these laws unconstitutional (and therefore unenforceable) in 2003.

This article provides a brief overview of North Dakota laws prohibiting certain consensual sexual acts.

North Dakota Laws Prohibiting Certain Consensual Sexual Acts: At a Glance

As with most other states North Dakota prohibits public sexual acts, exposing one's self in public, and other consensual sexual acts considered offensive to others. The law also prohibits "deviate sexual acts," defined by statute as "any form of sexual contact with an animal, bird, or dead person."

Additional provisions of North Dakota laws prohibiting certain kinds of consensual sexual activities are listed in the following table. See FindLaw's Sex Crimes section to learn about prohibited non-consensual sex acts.

Sodomy Laws Applicable to

Sodomy is used to define certain sex acts in North Dakota, but anti-sodomy laws are no longer in effect, as they pertain to consenting adults in the state, after Lawrence v. Texas (2003).

Penalty for Sodomy

For consenting adults, there is no penalty for sodomy. Under circumstances where sodomy occurs by force, without consent, with a person under the age of consent, where a person cannot consent, or with a person that is incapacitated, it is treated as a crime.

HIV Exposure and Compelled Testing for Offenders

Under N.D. Cent. Code § 23-07.7-01, if the victim petitions the court, the court may order the defendant convicted of a sex offense under § 12.1-20 to be HIV or STI tested.

Other Crimes Relating to Consensual Sex Acts

  • Deviate Sexual Act: Under N.D. Cent. Code § 12.1-20-12, a person who performs a deviate sexual act with the intent to arouse or gratify their sexual desire is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.
  • Fornication: Under N.D. Cent. Code § 12.1-20-08, an individual is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if the individual engages in a sexual act in a public place. A minor engaging in a sexual act is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.
  • Indecent Exposure: Under N.D. Cent. Code § 12.1-20-12.1, the penalties for indecent exposure change depending on the facts of the case. If a minor was present, the crime is a class A misdemeanor. If the offense is a second or concurrent offense, or if the person was required to register as a sex offender, the person is guilty of a class C felony. If the offense took place within 50 feet of a school, the offense is a class B felony.
  • Obscenity: Under N.D. Cent. Code § 12.1-27.1-01, the statute mentions "sodomy" as a form of punishable "sexual conduct," actual or simulated. The punishment for obscenity is a class C felony.
  • Prostitution: Under N.D. Cent. Code § 12.1-29-01 et seq., the penalties for prostitution change depending on the defendant's involvement in the sex-for-hire operation. Prostitution may be a class A misdemeanor, class B misdemeanor, or class C felony, depending on the facts of the case.

Other Crimes Relating to Non-Consensual Sex Acts

  • Gross sexual imposition: Under N.D. Cent. Code § 12.1-20-03, in certain circumstances, gross sexual imposition is a class AA felony that carries a minimum sentence of 20 years imprisonment, with probation supervision to follow the incarceration. In other situations, it is a class A felony.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

Consider reviewing the following resources for more information about all laws in North Dakota, including those related to sexual activity:

  • At North Dakota Law, you'll find links to all laws in the state, including those related to sexual activity.
  • At Official State Codes, you'll find links to the official online statutes (laws) in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

North Dakota Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws: Related Resources

Consider reviewing the following resources for more information about laws and legal issues related to sexual activity:

Need More Help? Contact an Attorney

Criminal prosecution for a sex crime can have serious consequences for a defendant. If you have been arrested for a sex crime, you may consider contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, you still have the right to counsel and the public defender's office in your county will be able to assist you.

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