State Senator Charged With Second Alcohol-Related Driving Offense


State Senator Joe Miller (R-Park River) was arrested and charged with speeding, open container and “actual physical control” on June 25th according to North Dakota’s statewide criminal database.

“Actual physical control” is defined on the North Dakota Highway Patrol website as “being in immediate control or having the ability to operate the motor vehicle while being under the influence or having a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 percent or more.” Basically, it’s driving under the influence without the driving.

This isn’t Senator Miller’s first run-in with an alcohol-related driving charge. During the legislative session, when policymakers were debating tougher DUI laws for the state (which, ironically enough, take effect today), I wrote about three legislators who had alcohol violations including Senator Miller.

Miller was convicted of reckless driving (it’s common practice for DUI charges to be plead down to reckless driving) and open container, in July of 2007 for which he received fines, probation and chemical dependency counseling. These previous charges came before Senator Miller was elected to the state Senate.

Senator Miller has an initial appearance related to these charges set for July 22nd in Walsh County.

Update: Here’s something weird: I thought “actual physical control” was a non-moving DUI offense, but Senator Miller was also charged with speeding. How does that work?

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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  • Dakotacyr

    resign! Get treatment and stay off the road! You, are a hazard to the health of others drivers and their families on the road.

    • PK

      Oh yeah, so there aren’t terrible drivers out there who don’t drive impaired? Did he get into an accident? Were their victims? People out hunting on opening day of deer season could potentially kill other hunters in the next field or driving down the road, so we should ban hunting too. Let’s just ban guns and cars period to keep us safe. If there’s no victim, there’s no crime. Free societies are dangerous. Grow up and deal with it. Governments are far more dangerous than drunk drivers .

      • Dakotacyr

        You’re not being serious, are you? Really?

        • Dakotacyr

          but..but..but…you’re the party of law and order.

        • PK

          I’m saying that everyone has a potential to harm others everyday, but we don’t throw people in jail until there’s a victim. We don’t criminalize hunting or shooting, even though there’s a risk of shooting someone hunting or driving a half mile away. DUI’s are unjust if you haven’t been in an accident. And yes, governments killed 260 million people last century, not including war casualties, so they’re far more dangerous than drunk drivers. We’ve given the government authority to take our rights, even when no actual crime has been committed. Is the government going to protect your head from smashing against the concrete if you roll your vehicle completely sober? No, but i’ll tell you, as a friend, the best way to protect you and your family on the road is to drive 40-50 mph and wear a helmet, 5-point and HANS. The government doesn’t really care about you. All they care about is money and power.

          • Tundra

            I don’t want an impaired driver next to me and
            my kid on the road. I tend to be pretty libertarian — choose whether
            or not to wear a helmet (you’re only hurting yourself), choose a seat
            belt or not (you’re only hurting yourself), whatever. But libertarian
            isn’t anarchist. We have collective, social rules for a reason. You can’t get behind the wheel of a public road in any condition
            you want. It’s a danger to others.

          • PK

            In a free society, it shouldn’t become the government’s business until there’s a victim. That’s my core point. That’s libertarianism. There are better ways to solve roadway fatalities than looking to the government. They’ll just use it to expand power. Who likes going through a checkpoint in America? Anything to keep us safe i guess. Setting BA levels at .08, and now the feds are pushing for .05, then throwing the book at you for having 3 beers after work isn’t fixing anything. They’ll get it to .05 because the states are forced to adopt those laws to get our tax money back. Free societies are dangerous, because it’s up to the individual. But governments are far more dangerous than the collection of individuals doing stupid crap in a free society. Government isn’t the answer.

          • Tundra

            There are different types of libertarians, and I guess you and I are different breeds. I’m not saying that the government is the *best* solution. But working within the present system (and geez, since he’s a lawmaker, he’s certainly within the present system!), I’m following the principle: a man’s right to swing his fist ends where my nose begins. Your right to enjoy a few beers ends when you get behind the wheel and endanger me and my child on the road. Stupid crap is stuff like not wearing your seatbelt, not wearing a helmet, or putting political signs in your yard on election day. Dangerous crap is driving drunk or handling guns in a crowd while inebriated.

          • PK

            Well ok, fair enough. Even if the alcohol or drug related percentage goes down, roadway fatalities most likely won’t go down on the same curve. How many of the alcohol related fatalities are actually caused by the
            person who had alcohol or drugs in their system anyway? It’s hard to
            believe that the drinkers caused every one. But in the statistics the
            government uses to rationalize their increased power, the person with
            any BAC is guilty every time. So there will have to be other behaviors criminalized while driving. Texting, eating, talking to passengers, etc., since fatalities aren’t going to go down until we start actually protecting our vitals. So some day, when many human behaviors are criminalized, with driving being rather restricted for Americans, and the government mandates robotic cars to solve the fatality issue, claiming perfect safety, know that it was all engineered and resist it. It’s rather sad that i actually get laughed at and ridiculed for suggesting everyone wear helmets, 5 point restrains with HANS in vehicles, out of their own free will, while the government sets up checkpoints and targets people driving 30 mph down the highway for a DUI. The People don’t understand the proper role of government anymore, which is why our country will collapse unless we wake up.

          • Drain52

            Great point. Why don’t we let people roam through the streets shoving guns into others’ faces and randomly shooting into the air? Just as long as no one is hurt, what’s the problem?

            Drunk as a lord and doing 120 mph past the elementary school? No sweat. Wait until you kill someone, then get prosecuted. But in the meantime, you’re just an innocent little angel.

            Rob a bank but have a change of heart later and returned the money? Hey, no harm, no foul.

            Threaten to kill your wife and even put your hands around her throat but didn’t squeeze? What a whiner she is if she calls the cops.

            Did you operate that crane while higher than a kite? No problem, so long as you didn’t crush a person or two. What kind of fuddy-duddy would want a heavy equipment operator to be in his right mind?

            Clearly in Libertarianworld there’s no such thing as reckless, dangerous behavior until someone’s been killed or hurt. Ridiculous. And spare us the answer that only proto-fascists who worship tyrannical government would want any kind of check on obviously hazardous behavior.

          • PK

            Many people get DUIs when they’re not driving reckless. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any penalty whatsoever when people are driving dangerously, i’m saying the current laws are predatory and unjust, since many people get randomly pulled over and booked for .08. Robbing a bank, pointing guns at people and threatening or laying hands on your wife, or anyone, is a crime, and doesn’t relate. I’m talking about all the DUIs when someone has a few beers, is driving just as well as anyone else out there with all the other distractions people have, gets pulled over, blows .08 and gets hauled to jail. Come on, that’s not right. The statistics the government uses to justify this isn’t a fair reflection of the actual causes of wrecks. Certainly a large portion of the alcohol related crashes are caused by the sober people. If someone’s driving all over the place all crazy, well certainly they should be taken off the road and reprimanded. But there’s getting to be a large percentage of people getting DUIs for not doing anything wrong. I’m not a Libertarian either, Tundra said he/she was. You don’t need to get all irrational to make your point, giving extreme, non-related examples. Get ready for government mandates for breathalyzers in vehicles that won’t let you start the car until you blow low enough. Since no law the government will throw at us will solve the overall fatality issue, considering they’ll never mandate anything to protect our vitals, it’s inevitable robotic cars will be mandated and the right to freely operate a vehicle will be lost for “safety”.

          • Drain52

            You did say that “in a free society, it shouldn’t become the government’s business until there’s a victim.” That seems to contradict much of what you said, although I agree that the current BACs shoved off on us and endless government intervention are likely excessive.

            Still, like shooting randomly in town, DUI is criminalized because of the likelihood of hurting or killing someone.

  • devilschild

    The life of an alcoholic is no life at all.

  • Camburn

    He should know better. This is not acceptable behavior.

  • Guest

    Tough to comment without knowing more about the circumstances, but it’s a good opportunity to discuss the ridiculous law that is “actual physical control.” Certainly, there are times when an individual is prevented from drunk driving by an officer citing someone for physical control, but for each of those events are many others where a person making the mature, safe decision to not drive is punished. What’s wrong with an individual sleeping off a few drinks in their car if they don’t feel comfortable driving home after bar close? The same goes for passing out in a vehicle after a college house party. The law makes the legal risk of driving home drunk virtually identical to the legal risk of sleeping in your car instead of driving.

    Let’s face it, physical control laws negate a disincentive of drunk driving.

    Again, these comments should not be specifically applied to the case of Sen. Miller as I have no idea what the circumstances of his arrest were. However, the law itself has a lot of issues.

    • Flyby_Knight

      Agree wholeheartedly. “Actual physical control” definitely has the unintended consequence of punishing the more responsible behavior.

      Not that it’s all that responsible to get drunk enough to need to sleep it off in the parking lot, but it’s certainly more responsible than driving.

      Edit: “Not that,” rather than “that that.”

      • Alice Olson

        If you need to sleep it off, do it in the back seat. Then, you are no longer is “actual physical control.” Simple solution to a problem that shouldn’t actually ever occur. Why would you drive to a bar without having a plan about how you are going to get hime? .08 isn’t much in the way of drinking, surely you would know that you are going to be violating the law if you go out and get behind the wheel of your car.

        • Flyby_Knight

          That’s actually not accurate. If you’re in the vehicle and have the keys on you, you’re in “actual physical control,” whether you’re in the back seat or not.

    • PK

      It’s all a joke. These laws are disingenuous and aren’t intended to reduce fatalities. There can’t be a crime if there isn’t a victim. It’s just an excuse for the government to leach off the American people and erode our rights. Cops should be out driving or escorting people home when they find someone who’s been drinking, not throwing them in jail and destroying their life for having a few drinks after work, then trying to get home for supper. There will come a day when it’ll be illegal to drive at all if all this lunacy continues. You’ll only be able to use government approved robotic cars, that they control the infrastructure for of course. Helmets, 5 point restraints with the HANS system would be far more effective at reducing fatalities. But yeah i know, it’s crazy to even suggest wearing a helmet in a car. Those NASCAR guys are stupid.

    • ND Observer

      You are right on. Many a person did the right thing and did not drive, but slept in their car only to get a :actual physical control.” One student did not want to wake his parents so slept in the car in the driveway of their home.. He was charged. If the police cared about safety they would escort these folks home,not charge them. Clearly they are out for the money, not safety.

  • Lianne

    What was his BAC?

  • toomuchguvmint

    His behavior is a pathetic disregard for others on the road as well as the voters in his district. Mr. Miller needs to resign and spend his time straightening out his personal life. How many chances does he get before someone is killed. There are worse tragedies than resignation.

  • Lawyer

    I have some professional legal advice for Sen. Miller:…

  • Clairvoyant

    1st time shame on you. 2nd time-do the classy thing and resign.

    • PK

      Why should he resign? It’s an unjust law, considering he didn’t hurt anyone or damage any property, nor intended too. No victim or conspiracy to do harm, therefore no crime.

      • Tundra

        Not an unjust law? C’mon. Victimless crimes are things like prostitution (should both parties be consenting) or not wearing a seatbelt (you choose). Getting in a big metal box on a public road, trying to aim that big metal box at 50-70 miles an hour around other people, cars, pedestrians or whatever is risky. Sure, he didn’t cause an accident this time, but he should be thankful, as should his potential victims. He should know better.

  • Guest

    It’s not an unjust law. I don’t want an impaired driver next to me and my kid on the road. I tend to be pretty libertarian — choose whether or not to wear a helmet (you’re only hurting yourself), choose a seat belt or not (you’re only hurting yourself), whatever. But libertarian isn’t anarchist. We have collective, social rules for a
    reason. You can’t get behind the wheel of a public road in any condition
    you want. It’s a danger to others.

  • Say It

    It already shows, that he is not above the law.
    In some jurisdictions, if a city council member, mayor, etc. were to get caught doing this, they would not be charged in the first place.
    Looks like he is not above the law, for getting charged for this.

    • Tundra

      Yeah, and he’s the one writing the laws that I have to live by. I didn’t realize I could choose which ones I liked, as he does. He got caught — yeah! But hypocrites — boo!

      • Rob

        He had a DUI on his record when he was elected. I’m not sure how much his constituents care.

        • Don Quixote

          He also had an R next to his name and that was likely the only thing many of the voters knew about him. I think most people vote for the party not the individual. Besides, one DUI doesn’t make one a slobbering drunk. It could have been a combination of poor judgment and bad luck.

          • Rob

            That’s fair, and you’re right. A lot of party-line voting in MD.

        • Lilo

          He won a run-off with Senator Curtis Olafson for the R endorsement seat. (There was 2 in-office republicans representing the one new redistricted area and Miller won.) From what I heard that caucus vote was decided on who is more pro-life, Miller won it since Senator Olafson dismissed a vote in a committee hearing on the personhood/abortion issue in a prior legislative session.

          • Rob

            Yes that’s exactly what happened. Very socially conservative up there which is why this may be tough for Miller.

  • Alice Olson

    People who really know alcoholism know that a DUI is a compelling sign that one has a significant drinking problem. The likelihood of being arrested the first or only time one has driven drunk is such a long shot that its happening pretty much means you’ve done it over and over again. Getting arrested a second time clearly shows the guy can’t control his use of liquor — at a minimum, it impairs one’s judgment. He needs treatment and he should get it. Now.