Serious constitutional questions may not be the only headache North Dakota cities face as they, enabled by state legislation passed in Bismarck earlier this year, raise traffic fines above state levels.
The City of Fargo, for instance, is one of a few communities in our state which has chosen to take advantage of the change in state law. They’ve doubled the fine for certain traffic violations, but that doubling only applies to Fargo police. If, say, a Cass County deputy stops you, or a North Dakota Highway Patrol officer, you’ll still pay the lower state fine.
This creates a situation where the exact same traffic violation, occurring under the exact same conditions in precisely the same geographic location, would have widely different fines associated with it depending on the uniform of the law enforcement officer stopping you.
The North Dakota Supreme Court, in a cased called Frey vs. North Dakota, found: “[w]hen two statutes prohibit the same conduct but result in different penalties a person suffering the more serious penalty has been denied equal protection of the laws.”