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N.D. Cent. Code § 39-06-42(1) provides in pertinent part that except as provided in N.D. Cent. Code chs. 39-16 and 39-16.1, and in N.D. Cent. Code § 39-06.1-11, any person who drives a motor vehicle on any public highway of this state at a time when his license or privilege so to do is suspended or revoked shall be guilty of a class B misdemeanor.
Defendant Gaylord Duane Fridley was stopped for speeding. A routine driver's license check revealed that Fridley's driver's license had been revoked. He was subsequently arrested and cited for driving while his license was revoked, in violation of N.D. Cent. Code § 39-06-42. Fridley demanded a jury trial. Subsequently, the State made a motion in limine requesting that no reference be allowed in the trial of the case to contact by the defendant with the North Dakota Driver's License Division. Fridley resisted the State's motion in limine on the grounds that his defense to the charge would rest upon the statutorily defined defense of excuse based upon mistake of law. Fridley contended during his offer of proof that after he received notice of his license revocation, he contacted by telephone, a person named "Debbie" of the Drivers License Division in regard to the procedures necessary for obtaining a work permit to drive. Fridley did not attempt to subpoena “Debbie” for the purpose of establishing his affirmative defense. The trial court granted the State’s motion in limine. Moreover, Fridley's request for a continuance for the purpose of subpoenaing "Debbie" as a witness was also denied by the court because Fridley had ample opportunity since the case first began to find Debbie and have her appear. The jury found Fridley guilty of driving while his license was revoked. On appeal, defendant argued that the district court erred in granting the state's motion in limine, thus precluding him from presenting evidence to establish his defense of excuse based upon mistake of law.
Did the trial court err in granting the state’s motion in limine?
The Court held that the trial court properly granted the State’s motion in limine, because, as a matter of law, the defense of excuse, based upon mistake of law, was not applicable to prosecutions under § 39-06-42, N.D.C.C., a strict liability offense for which proof of culpability was not required. Hence, Fridley’s conduct could not be necessary and appropriate for any of the purposes which would establish a justification or excuse under mistake of law. Fridley’s good faith belief that his conduct did not constitute a crime was of no import. Accordingly, the Court affirmed Fridley’s conviction.