Can You Legally Sunbathe Topless Anywhere In North Dakota?
We go from snow flurries in Bismarck last weekend to 80-degree temps this week. The weather is looking pretty summer-like too for the Memorial Day weekend. You might be thinking of hitting the beach or sandbar this weekend and trying out that new bathing suit. A couple of friends and I were recently enjoying a cold beverage in the garage, and the topic of sunbathing topless came up. This is very common of course over in Europe, but not so much in America. Somebody asked if it's even legal in North Dakota? I had no idea, but it sounded like a fact-finding mission to me.
Here's what the state of North Dakota has to say about nudity in public. According to an article in the Grand Forks Herald, the law is ambiguous at best. “A person, with intent to arouse, appeal to, or gratify that person’s lust, passions or sexual desires is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor if that person exposes one’s "lower" private parts in a public place or in a private place.” Hmmm, nothing about breasts. So technically, you can show the girls off.
However, be warned. Cities across North Dakota may have their own set of laws on going topless. For example, in that same article, the city of Grand Forks says, Grand Forks city code bans topless sunbathing in public places. According to local law, it is unlawful to appear “on any street, avenue, highway, road, park, sidewalk, bike path, beach, beachfront or waterway located in the city, or appear in any public place, store or business in a state of nudity.” The code notes that it includes “female breasts".
Fargo on the other hand, there is no city law concerning going topless in public. According to another InForum article, there's no city law in Fargo stating women need to wear a top in public, but they still have to be careful. Local pools may have dress codes. If they ask you to leave, you must leave. Not breaking the law though.
So how about the city of Bismarck on the subject? I spoke with Janelle Combs City Attorney for Bismarck. Here's what she sent me.
6-05-02. Indecent Conduct. A person is guilty of an ordinance violation if that person:
"Appears nude in a public place other than a restroom, bathroom, changing room, or similar facility, designated for his or her sex. "Nude" means that any portion of the pubic areas, anus, vulva, genitals, or female breasts below the top of the areola is exposed to the view of the general public."
The word public place is the keyword. So, technically if you were in the privacy of your own backyard in a fenced-off situation you might be legal to sunbathe topless. However, the City Attorney told me it would depend on the situation. Again, that sounds ambiguous at best. Sounds like more trouble than it's worth. I would deal with the tan lines.
Minnesota recently passed a law in 2020 where it's now legal for women to sunbathe topless. It's also legal in South Dakota.
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