Interim Committee to Look at North Dakota’s DUI Law

October 15, 2013

A North Dakota legislative committee plans to review aspects of the state’s strengthened DUI law just a few months after it took effect.

The interim Judiciary Committee will begin holding meetings in the coming months. The committee will look at a provision making refusal to submit to a chemical test a criminal offense and how the bill affects the 24/7 sobriety program and the state’s drug court, the Grand Forks Herald reported.

Sen. David Hogue, the committee’s chairman, said he’s heard from attorneys that drivers could be charged for refusing a chemical test, and later charged at the police station if they fail the test.

“I’m hearing from defense lawyers and a prosecutor that that’s a totally separate offense,” said Hogue, R-Minot. “So the question is did we intend to have that one incident where you were out driving constitute two separate criminal offenses.”

Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, chairman of the North Dakota Legislative Management Committee, sent a letter to Hogue directing the committee to take up the DUI law. The committee will hold several meetings and present its findings to the Legislature when it convenes in January 2015.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed the DUI law in late April. It increases fines for first-time offenders and creates an aggravated first offense if an offender’s blood alcohol content is above .16 percent, resulting in a $750 fine and at least two days in jail. The law also increases punishment for subsequent convictions.

Repeat offenders must participate in the 24/7 Sobriety Program, in which their blood alcohol content is tested daily or electronically monitored. How law enforcement tracks those in the program when they leave the state is another question that has been raised, Hogue said.

“I think some of the prosecutors and law enforcement would like additional guidance,” Hogue said.

Chad McCabe, a Bismarck-based defense attorney, said the new law only references the state’s drug court, a court-supervised treatment program, and doesn’t include language making it an option for reducing DUI-related sentences.

“They could still go to drug court, but they would still have to do the mandatory jail sentences,” McCabe said. “So what’s the point?”

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