Three ND Legislators Convicted Of Alcohol-Related Traffic Offenses

boscheemillerschatz

Over the weekend the Fargo Forum ran a story about “lead foot legislators,” correlating speeding offenses with the legislator’s positions on speeding fines. That was an interesting story, but an even bigger story went overlooked by the Forum, and I wonder if it had to do with the involvement of Rep. Josh Boschee who has, as the state’s firstly open gay legislator, become a bit of a media darling for the Forum.

According to the records the Forum itself uncovered, Rep. Boschee has twice been convicted of “reckless driving,” in June of 2006 and August of 2010. Now, reckless driving isn’t necessarily drunk driving, but a closer inspection of those records shows that for the 2006 offense Boschee was given, in addition to fines, a year of probation and ordered to undergo a chemical dependency evaluation. For the 2010 offense Boschee again got fines, probation and an order for chemical dependency evaluation, but also 10 hours of mandated community service.

One doesn’t typically get probation, nor mandated community service/counseling, for merely being a reckless driver. Convictions for “reckless driving” are the typical result for people who are arrested for driving under the influence but manage to get their charges reduced.

Boschee hasn’t responded to an email seeking comment sent this morning to his state email address.

Nor is Boschee the only current legislator to have alcohol-related charges. Senator Joe Miller was convicted of reckless driving, and open container, in July of 2007 for which he received fines, probation and chemical dependency counseling.

“I had passed the sobriety tests but was taken in for a blood test and subsequently got a reckless driving and an open container,” Miller told me in an email this morning. “I believe my blood test said I had a .09 BAL.” He said the open container charge came from a bottle of wine friends had left in his car earlier in the day (he’d been attending a wedding) and that he hadn’t been drinking wine.

Rep. Mike Schatz also had a conviction for DUI and open container in 2008 for which he got fines, probation and counseling.

It should be noted that both Senator Miller’s and Rep. Boschee’s convictions took place prior to their being elected to the legislature (Miller has served since 2009, Boschee is in his first session). It should also be noted that Senator Miller was part of a unanimous Senate vote in favor of SB2240 enacting tougher penalties for drunk driving (more on that here).

Now, given the amount of hype the Forum has put into the drunk driving issue leading up to this legislative session and the amount of attention drunk driving laws being considered in the session have received, you’d think these two instances might have been noteworthy. Certainly more noteworthy than the speeding tickets legislators have received.

Yet, the Forum didn’t cover them. Is it because their media darling, Rep. Boschee, was involved? Again, given the amount of attention they’ve spent on the DUI issue in general, two legislators with convictions for alcohol-related driving offenses might be newsworthy.

Update: Not sure how I missed it, but Rep. Mike Schatz also had a DUI conviction from 2008. I’ve updated the post to reflect that.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. 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. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • camsaure

    I wonder how they voted for alcohol legislation. I wonder if it was the typical “the laws are for the masses, not us ruling class” meme. Also I thought the limit was .08 not 1.0 or .09

  • Roy_Bean

    This is common all over the state. Raising the penalties for a conviction won’t change anything unless there is a conviction. If we continue to wink and nod and call it something else nothing will change.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I don’t disagree.

      But legislators with alcohol-related traffic offenses is a news story.

      • Roy_Bean

        It is a news story, and even more so because they plea bargained their way out of the penalty. It illustrates the futility of increasing penalties when we don’t even have the stomach to impose the lesser penalties.

        • Camburn

          Senator Miller admitted he was over the limit and still did not get a conviction. This shows the poor enforcement by our courts, and also poor judgement by the person who does drive drunk.

          Call a cab.

      • borborygmi

        especially after 4+ years after the conviction.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          The Forum considered speed violations from even further back then that news in the context of increased speeding fines being considered.

  • ec99

    As long as the ND media bury negative stories about their sacred cows, you will never be out of a job.

  • guest

    Schatz also had a DUI

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      You’re right, how did I miss that?

      I’ve updated the post to reflect that.

  • RCND

    While she is no longer a Legislator, I do believe Rae Ann Kelsch had at least one alcohol-related driving offense while in session.

  • opinionated

    Legislators to North Dakotans … Eat Cake

  • slim jim

    in my opinion, until the majority of the legislators and population, accept the fact that those that drink and drive under the influence, are alcoholics, they suffer from alcoholism. but denial (not the river) is EXTREMELY strong among drunks and their famalies as one out of every 5 persons that drink have a good chance of becoming alcoholic and one alcoholic effects a minimum of 10 people, that includes most of the population of this state. alcoholism and its effects on those 10 folks is in my opinion the most epidemic illness in ND, but few if any in any political office is willing to stand up and be honest about it and face it squarely nothing, nothing will change. 50 % or more of the deaths on our highways will die thanks to those under the influence. I know of what i speak, i have been there.
    jim

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      No, I don’t think anyone who drives after a couple of drinks is an alcoholic. I also doin’t think a .09 BAC is inebriated.

  • Harlan Goerger

    Rob, you missed Axness, minor in possession, believe 2005.

  • Ray Seltz

    And these are just published cases. Lord knows how many DUI’s were hidden through various negotiations. Some of these folks are lower than Bill Clinton’s ethics or perhaps Larry Craig’s slacks at the MSP Airport men’s bathroom.

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