House Passes Tougher DUI Bill


The House today concurred with the Senate’s version of the DUI bill, sending it to Governor Jack Dalrymple for signature.

Here’s what it does:

For a first offense the fine goes from $250 to $500 along with mandatory addiction treatment. Unless you have over a 0.16 blood alcohol level, in which case the fine goes to $750 with a mandatory two days of imprisonment.

The law also expands the time for an offense to stop being held against you from five to seven years. Under current law, if you get a second DUI more than five years after the first one, it’s held as a “first offense” again. That period of time is now seven years.

For a second offense, there is a mandatory 10 days of jail time, a $1,500 fine, mandatory addiction counseling and a mandatory 1-year participation in the state’s 24/7 sobriety program which requires regular alcohol screenings from law enforcement.

For a third offense, it’s a mandatory six months in jail a $2,000 fine, addiction counseling and a year of probation which must include the 24/7 sobriety program.

A fourth offense, and all subsequent offenses, is a year and a day of mandated jail time, a $2,000 fine, addiction counseling and two years of probation including the 24/7 sobriety program.

Minors found to be driving with a .02 BAC would also be required to participate in the 24/7 sobriety program.

All told, it’s a much tougher law, but not as ludicrously tough as some of the alarmists demanded.

My prediction is that, much like “get tough” policies in the past, this will have little impact on alcohol-related car crashes and fatalities which have remained relatively static (in the context of driver/traffic increases in the state) despite stepped-up DUI enforcement:


The question is: What happens when these new “get tough” laws don’t actually make our roads safer? Do we admit that maybe this isn’t a problem public policy can solve, or do the activists and media alarmists bully is into even more draconian laws?

Another discussion question: With North Dakota’s jails already packed, where do all these people getting mandatory jail sentences go?

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • kevindf

    I wonder what the unintended consequences will be.

    • VocalYokel

      I wonder what the reaction will be when legislators and their family members get convicted.

      • The Whistler

        The important folks will get their charges reduced to something else.

        • VocalYokel

          You mean the law isn’t the same for everyone?
          Next you’ll be telling me I’m better off with a lawyer like F. Lee Bailey than a Public Defender…

          • Goon

            Not even close.

        • Goon

          I was thinking the same things as well.

      • The Fighting Czech

        im tempted to hang out in Bismarck when I retire, and follow these politicians around… do a lot of video taping, and find out where their favorite watering holes are, and call the cops on the ones that look a little stiff. when they walk out of the joint… . they will have to shut down the legislature down one day a week so they can “attend Classes”

        • camsaure

          That would save us from a bunch of other really stupid laws also. Good idea.

        • VocalYokel

          If Bismarck is anything like Fargo, the cops already know where the heavy hitters frequent and are on the other side of town when those watering holes close.

    • zdavid53

      A whole rash of jury trials and plea bargains. More full jails. A big line of people being forced to attend meetings. More unhireable people on the dole.

    • noblindersonme

      It is highly likely that one of the consequences will be many less drunks ending up in emergency rooms in this state , or morgues ! or church funerals for the innocent .
      dammit it kev don’t you ever offfer anything substantive on these blogs then snarky suppositions?

      • kevindf

        Why not just outlaw alcohol, Ron?

        • bigdaddybernie

          OOPS . . . tried that . . . . didn’t work .
          I guess it’s back to gummint’ micromanaging our lives !

    • Goon

      I am all for keeping drunks off of the roads but this won’t keep the habitual drivers off of the streets. They will drink and drive anyways.

  • NDJimmy

    What was up in 2004?

    I wish people would wear their seatbelts, but I don’t think you can regulate idiocy away. How often don’t you read, “The deceased was thrown and killed”

    • Clairvoyant

      I agree. For people not wearing seat belts it is “nature weeding out the stupid”

      • SusanBeehler

        Unless you are the one caught in their drunken path.

        • Onslaught1066

          Is that what happened to your face?

    • JimTown Guy

      If people want to increase their odds of being killed in a rollover by not wearing a seatbelt, let them. People driving drunk increase the odds of innocent bystanders being killed.

    • retirenowconrad

      They were forced to pass the law due so Federal funds wouldn’t be taken away.

      They didn’t want to pass the law, even though every session there is a new bill to make the law stricter.

      Agencies don’t have to obey the 10th ammendment.

    • Thresherman

      I too think that everyone should wear their seat-belts, I do however object to that being a law. Making good ideas mandatory has now led us to the idiocy that Bloomberg is enacting in NYC.

      • Simon

        Except Bloomberg doesn’t have good ideas.

        • noblindersonme

          Except Bloomberg is mayor of a City of 8 million or so! What he does in his city is far different than what the mayor of Hillsboro or Watford City faces. Frankly who the hell are you to tell Bloomberg how to run his city! He seems to have the support there ! or are you saying New Yawkers should stay out of our business but you have every right to tell them and Connecticutters how to live there?

          • The Fighting Czech

            Its not Bloombergs city. it belongs to the people…But I agree.. If they still need someone to stick a pacifier in their mouth, that their business. They keep re-electing the clown. they deserve everything they get.

    • The Fighting Czech

      do a little research on effectivity of seat belt use. the stats. arent very impressive. Per the DOT billboards outside of Grand forks, every 4.7 days, someone dies in an accident, that isnt wearing a seatbelt. what they dont mention that every 5.2 days, someone dies in ND. who is wearing a seatbelt.

      basically 45% of the fatalities in ND are people with belts on, 55% are those with out… You basically have a 5% spread between the two stats. (this is from the ND DOT) of course there are no stats. that tell you how many people died with Belts on, that may have survived had they not had them on….

      The info is online. Seat belt performance on rollovers is dismal…They were meant for Head-on Collisions ….

      What you should be wondering why you dont read “the deceased was wearing a seat belt”

      You cant rely on the tv and billboard ads for “truthful” information. The state makes money off of non seatbelt use. and arent about to let facts get in the way.

  • headward

    They should be fixing the real issue with getting charged with a DUI if you’re sleeping in your back seat instead of driving.

    • Rob

      That is ridiculous. If you’re making a good-faith effort not to drive drunk by sleeping it off in the back seat, you shouldn’t be charged.

      • headward

        Exactly. There’s people out there with DUIs because they went to grab a bag out of their car and take a cab. Since they had their keys on them they get smacked with a DUI. The legislature doesn’t need to make laws tougher, they need to make it better for citizens that do the right thing instead of treating them like criminals.

        • zdavid53

          Knew a guy who drove home drunk all the time. One time he thought he should do the right thing and sleep it off in the car. That was when he got his DUI. He said “never again.”

    • Opinionated

      Exactly but that is a cheap no nonsense workable solution and no hand slapping goes on

  • Roy_Bean

    Unless this includes that they can’t plea bargain to reckless driving nobody will ever get their first offense. Our prosecutors and jurys don’t have the guts to enforce the old law. Why would anyone believe that they will enforce the new one?

    • Thresherman

      Seriously, where did you get the idea that hardly anyone is convicted on a first offense DUI?

      • Roy_Bean

        The Sargent County States Attorney has said, on the record, that he will plea bargain anything below .14 to reckless driving to avoid the DUI and the loss of driving privileges that goes with it. It happened in Stutsman County 7 months before the family from West Fargo was killed there. It would make a good interim study for the legislature to see how common it has been. They, and the public in general, would be surprised.

        • Bob

          There have been studies and it’s not very often. Do you really think we don’t track this kind of stuff? Majority of people that get DUI’s don’t hire big lawyers and just take the standard plea bargain (still a DUI, just avoids trial).

          • Roy_Bean

            Stastics don’t lie….
            The problem is that worst offenders are the ones who use the “reckless” option. The majority of people who get a DUI just want to get it behind them and move on. It’s going to be the people who have no intention of quitting who will avoid the penalties and the people who would never do it again anyway that will pay the price.

  • spud

    Well Rob could very well be right but one thing is for sure you will pay a high price for drinking and driving compared to past and the five year rule increased to seven on a second offense will be a gift to your insurance rates also. A boozer is a loser.

    • Rob

      If we’re not saving lives and preventing injury, what exactly are we accomplishing?

      A state’s attorney just emailed to say that they’re expecting about 15,000 new inmates in ND as a result of this.

      That’s a huge new expense to accomplish not much.

      • Ladd

        I believe that is 15,000 more jail days based on 2012 DUI cases, and the new mandatory jail days in the bill, not 15,000 more inmates. I believe the original bills were looking at about 105,000 new jail days based on 2012 arrest numbers. I am not going to complain about this bill even though I wish there were some changes to it. However, it does create a duality example of everyone wanting property tax relief, caps on property tax increases, etc. and the tax committees worked on lots of those proposals this session….Then these, and many other unfunded mandates, place demands on the same property tax system.

        • noblindersonme

          please ladd , dont try to reason here . It is hardly worth it.
          as you can see, rob just pulls stuff out , without thought or concern.

          and this behavior coming from one who bashes the ‘main stream media’ constantly’.

          Yeah pulling dangerous drunks off the roads will be a calamatious situation for all those who ‘pay taxes’. !
          Hey life is dangerous ! God forbid we do ANYTHING to make it less so!

          Listen asshats ! you are whining about the added burden that may come because we as a society might want to actually to punish those who kill innocent drivers is so much bullspit.

          “a huge expense to not accomplish much ‘ the pompous port relates !

          Well who appointed you God as the saying goes!

          What, pray tell, constitutes ‘not much of an accomplishment’?
          One life saved ? Ten ? a few 100? Huh? tell us smart ass ! At what point , or at what death marker , does it become an ‘accomplishment!!
          and whose life ? should it take a death in your family for it to finally make a dent in your cold heart?
          btw I can probably pull statistics out of my ass too. you say 15000 more inmates in jails will result? or is it hours or is it whatever you want something to say? I can say that my wife who works in an emergency room assures me that 50,000 less drivers will visit her and other ERs in the next few years . I think she is as credible as that state’s attorney , fictional or not.
          and to me and to MOST folks it is a trade off we would WELCOME. GOD I hope that it happens that way!!
          or don’t you give a gawd damn that your medical insurance will drop even more !
          Thank God those who passed this bill listened to the reasoned voices , like highway patrolmen and doctors and nurses and undertakers and nursing home providers who deal with the drunk driver up close and personal , and not the smartass keyboard warriors who worry about ‘the rights of drunks!”
          oh! didn’t it pass like about 44 -0 or something like that!!!

      • zdavid53

        Not only a huge expense, buy a lot of people put into the unhireable position who will go on the dole.

    • noblindersonme

      but it is far more likely that rob is wrong.
      He say it won’t work . How the hell does he know it won’t.!
      I was in Norway over 30 years ago . It was after a dwi of my own, too much beer after a day of softball and no wife to drive me home . The drinking there astonished me. The Norse drank like professionals , Americans were amateurs compared . long story short, after one day of food and home brew, a bunch of us piled into a car with our flasks full of everclear-like brew and went to a dance. One guy was appointed to drive and he did not touch a drop ! nothing , not a breath of brew. for if he did it truly was draconian ! year in Jail , life without a license , whatever it was it was bad! AND IT WORKED !! It worked great! Their blood alcohol #’s were like 0.00! Norway’s death toll I am sure is almost non existent compared to ours.
      so don’t give me that crap that it won’t work!
      btw I not driven drunk since , marriage does work wonders .

      • JoeMN

        The Norse drank like professionals , Americans were amateurs compared .No doubt

        Years ago a young man from Norway spent some time here.

        A half dozen of us would get together at a lake every so often for a bonfire and camp out

        Whoever was delegated to buy the booze for us five would have to purchase as much again if Mattis was coming.
        The interesting thing about jail in Norway is that it is accompanied by hard labor, which in itself could possibly provide enough incentive to avoid jail in the first place.

      • Hellboy

        Professional drinkers????……interesting…. I’ve known some enthusiasts, but never a professional drinker. Anyway, regarding Norway and dwi, I read in a newspaper some time ago that a man had one beer and moved his car from the street to his driveway or garage and was nabbed for dwi. A little over the top, wouldn’t you think???? I prefer punishment for doing a crime instead of punishment for “pre-crimes…”

      • The Whistler

        It’s true, that if we were to execute anyone with a blood alcohol level over .001 that they wouldn’t drive drunk again.

        But I’m not really for that. I think the punishment should be reasonable.

  • retirenowconrad

    It will have no impact.

    The latest DUI accident by Oakes involved a guy who had a suspended license due to a previous DUI.

    I guess suspending his suspended license for a longer period would have prevented him from driving drunk with a suspended license.

    A better punishment would be to make him spend all 80 days in Bismarck and witness the stupidity of our “representatives.”

  • zdavid53

    sheriffs association against it. Municipal judges association against it. Legislature knew better!

  • Opinionated

    Nice now this will be included in obamacare… The therapists will be thrilled…there is a 3% success rate with alcohol counseling… But the tills will be ringing and force everyone’s premiums up… Nice! Did they ever stop to think that a guy with a .08 alcohol level does not necessarily have an alcohol problem? free rides home is the solution

    • SusanBeehler

      call a friend or a family member. Plan your “drinking” without driving!

  • NoDakNative

    People with .08-.15 BAC are not the problem, yet they are the ones the cops usually catch and whom fill up our jails and take up all the courts time. .15 was originally chosen for a very good reason. 1. Breathalyzers are extremely unreliable. 2. At .15 it is beyond reasonable doubt that a person is too impaired to drive.

    Unfortunately, MADD had to stay relevant and so they had to create a problem where non existed. In order to pretend there remained a significant drunk driving problem they campaigned for the limit to be reduced to ever more ridiculous levels. The founder of MADD left the organisation and denounces it as a neo-prohibitionist group.

    • DelawareBeachHouse

      I once got kept off a jury for calling MADD a neo-prohibitionist group. But I, and Mr. Whetham, were right. They will never solve the problem, never disband, always demand more laws, more punishments. In the process, government power grows. They should just call themselves and be honest about their goals.

      • two_amber_lamps

        MADD… a self-licking ice cream cone. Patterned after (and making as much sense as) gov’t bureaucracy.

      • JoeMN

        I once heard a representative of MADD at the local school suggest that prohibition was on the table.
        Someone then asked if she ever heard of Al Capone, or Minnesota 13

    • SusanBeehler

      Anyone drinking and driving can be a problem on the highway. It is about keeping others safe from those who cannot say no to drinking and driving. It is a choice. You choose to drive after drinking you are at risk for facing a penalty or worse killing or maiming someone with your car. Here are the ND stats

      • NoDakNative

        Anyone talking on a cell phone, eating, drinking coffee tending to kids in the back seat, tired, ANY NUMBER OF THINGS are equally, if not more, dangerous to someone with a ,08 BAC. Why aren’t the cops out enforcing those with equal vigor.

        I’ve almost been run off the road several times over the years by people driving down the interstate who were clearly trying to tend to kids in the back seat. I’ve seen people READING while driving, and on more than one occasion seen what looks like a portable DVD player being used I’ll ride with the drunk any day over those people, at least the drunk isn’t trying to multitask.

        Police need to focus on the people with .15 or higher, they are the real problem, not the .08 guy who had three beers.

        • SusanBeehler

          A police officer will not know before pulling you over if you are at .08 or more. The other things you mention may contribute to an accident but the major difference is once you are done eating, or put the object down or get rid of the distraction, you will not still be “under the influence” DUI is an ongoing “distraction” because your body, your mind is under the influence of the “chemical” and the “influence” does not stop because you are “driving”.

          • camsaure

            If the officer cannot tell if you are.08 or more until he pulls you over as you say, then one is obviously not drunk at .08.

  • Drain52

    First off, states should be left to set their own BAC levels, which were typically .10% until the feds bribed them into making it .08%. Second, as Fargo police chief Tiernes repeatedly points out, the truly serious drunk-driving accidents usually involve someone who’s floating on a blood alcohol content of around .16% or more.

    So while the bill takes modest steps in increasing the penalties for repeat offenders, it seems to me that a smarter approach would be to tell the feds to shove their .08% mandate and for ND to create a two-tier punishment system. The first tier for those with (and this could be empirically set) BAC from .10% to, say, .14%, and the second much harsher level for those above .14%. Fewer people in jail, and yet those in jail would be the more serious offenders.

  • April Kontz Johnson

    If you want to decrease DUIs you have to hit these drunks in the wallet HARD. $500 is a joke-especially with all the money floating around this state. $500 probably doesn’t even cover the costs the taxpayer incurrs for the police, states attorneys & judges time.

    • Rob

      You really think that’s going to help?

      The problem drunks – the ones who really cause the problems – aren’t likely to have the money to pay anyway.

      • April Kontz Johnson

        Well then they’ll go to prison and not be on the streets.

        • JoeMN

          This creates the same problems as locking up non violent drug users.

          Will you then act shocked as the state releases more violent felons early ?

          • April Kontz Johnson

            I have no problem paying more taxes to lock up losers.

          • JoeMN

            Yet your generosity on April 15 just cannot keep up with demand as it is.


          • noblindersonme

            it is not my or Ms Johnson’s generosity on April 15 that is the problem it seems . It is the reluctance, or plain mule headedness,that guys like you posess that allows society not able to pay such debts!
            I have no problem knowing my hard earned money will go to keep OUR roads safer! Maybe it is you living off my dime !
            Hasn’t that been the right’s wailing cry for many years? “Freedom aint free’!!! Well that goes for safety of our roads . LIFE liberty and the pursuit of happiness! When a drunk jepardizes my life and pursuit of happiness then he has no right to liberty!
            Dammit enough with your rights !
            Dwell on your responsibility!

          • JoeMN

            We have the highest incarceration rate in the world

            25 percent of the worlds prisoners are in the US, with 5 percent of the population.

            Each inmate costs $60,000 dollars.

            You liberals wanted a “war on poverty”

            Taxpayers were forced to spend 15 trillion, with nothing to show for it

            A 40 year “war on drugs”

            Another trillion dollars.
            Half a million incarcerated.
            This year, 25 million Americans will snort, swallow, inject and smoke
            illicit drugs, about 10 million more than in 1970, with the bulk of
            those drugs imported from Mexico.
            Lowering BAC from .10 to .08 had the predictable results of increased convictions, as well as the increased phony outrage and calls for more incarceration, as if lowering the bar should be considered a non factor.
            Goosed NTSB numbers that include the detection of any amount of alcohol from all those involved at an accident scene, including bicyclists or pedestrians
            It seems the most effective policies would target those repeat offenders with high BAC rather than criminalizing more people by casting a wider net.

  • Hellboy

    Just what is “drunken driving” if not Reckless driving???? The charge is, and always has been just another way of generating additional revenue for the local and state governments. It is not to say that the charge should not be enhanced depending if there was liability and personal injury are involved….. but one size does not fit all where BAC is concerned.

  • SusanBeehler

    Who says they won’t make the roads safer?

    • noblindersonme

      Rob says so and he is never wrong!
      ( Berg will beat Heitcamp by 20 points! the measure 2 proptax last June will be a great victory for the tax payer! If we don’t ‘Fix the Tax’ the oil companies will just skedaddle outta here ! elect Obama and Bin Laden will never get caught! the stock market will never flourish under Obama and the democrats! and so on and so on and so on and,,,,)

  • The Fighting Czech

    Great throw more people to the dogs…. Dont bother with the fact that 65% of all DUI’s are one time offenders.. they learn their lesson, and are never heard from again….Just jam them harder… what the heck make them all suffer. the more people we can get that are unemployable, and get them living off the taxpayers……. the better.