Bills Dealing with Tougher DUI Penalties Considered - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Bills Dealing with Tougher DUI Penalties Considered

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One of the major policy changes lawmakers will make this session will be dealing with penalties and fines for driving drunk.

Two bills were drafted following two separate and horrifying fatal crashes last summer.

But as Donnell Preskey reports, there are concerns that come with strengthening the laws against one of the top crimes in the state.

"Our first step is strengthening DUI legislation and it's time for progressive change," says Arlene Deutscher whose son was killed in a DUI crash.

It's their third appearance before legislators this session... But Arlene and Tom Deutscher's message is still a strong and emotional one.

"Hit head on by drunk driver going wrong way," says Tom Deutscher whose son was killed by a drunk driver.

They along with Juan and Sandy Ruiz have been sharing their pain with lawmakers about the dark reality of drinking and driving.

"Woke up to pulling boys out from under truck after guy ran over tent," says Juan Ruiz whose sons were killed by a drunk driver.

Ruiz says North Dakota has some of the most lenient DUI laws.

He wants that changed and the Deutscher's are right there with them.

"Ask to support and strengthen 2240," says Tom Deutscher.

Deutscher is concerned with how the bill has changed.

Senator Kelly Armstrong, who is also an attorney, says Senators reworked the bill to lessen impacts on jails, judges and prosecutors.

"DUI's are #1 criminal trial, if place mandatory minimum sentences see that 2-3 times higher. Court systems not equipped for that," says Armstrong.

"Issues of jail space and cost are only obstacles," says Tom Deutscher.

The penalties were much higher in the original version of the bill.

And that's how Representative Ed Gruchella would like to see it return.

"If we are going to make a difference, put up a firewall and make it a severe penalty up front," says democratic Rep. Ed Gruchella of Fargo.

The families support both DUI bills and are staying out of the politics in deciding which is the best policy.

They just have one request.

"All ask is for change," says Juan Ruiz.

Another bill addressing the state's DUI law, House Bill 1302, also had it's second hearing today.

Lawmakers in both committees are unsure how both bills will proceed.

Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Representative Dan Ruby, says it's rare one conference committee would work to combine both bills into one, but it is possible.

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