Tougher DUI Laws Passed in North Dakota - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Tougher DUI Laws Passed in North Dakota

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The North Dakota legislature has overhauled the state's DUI law.

The bill got it's final approval today.

It doubles jail time for repeat offenders and in some cases triples fines.

As Donnell Preskey reports, the final bill is not as tough as what was initially proposed but is still significantly stronger than current law.

With a unanimous vote, the Senate gave the final approval to a bill that significantly increases the penalties for driving drunk, cracking down hardest on repeat offenders.

Kim Koppelman: "It's a monumental day because we've passed the toughest drunk driving reform in memory."

Lawmakers this session were compelled by two horrific crashes--one that killed an entire family on I-94, another killing two brothers as they slept in their tent at Lake Metigoshe.

Drunk drivers were responsible in both crashes.

Koppelman "It sends message that North Dakota is no longer going to be a state that tolerates drinking and driving."

"While the bill increases jail time significantly, some lawmakers say the law isn't tough enough on the first time offenders."

Gruchella: Jail time is the equalizer, for some people, $1,000 is a big fine, for others its minimal. But no one wants to sit in jail."

Ed Gruchella was a sponsor of a separate DUI bill that was defeated earlier this session.

His proposal called to lock up first time offenders for 30 days.

Gruchella: "When I started law enforcement 35 years ago, it was a class B misdemeanor. the same as it is in this bill."

However, if a drunk driver's blood alcohol level is double the legal limit, the penalty increases, carrying a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 days in jail.

It's one of the new things this DUI law does, including creating four new felonies.

Armstrong: "We created a vehicular homicide statute, 2nd offense with a minor is a Felony, no longer is an injury a misdemeanor it's a felony right away and all have significant mandatory minimum jail terms. And moved felony to 4th level instead of 5th."

DUI's involving an injury will spend at least 1 year in prison, crashes causing death, at least 3 years.

Armstrong: "For your serious DUI offenders there is no get out of jail free card anymore."

The bill also requires repeat DUI offenders to be part of the 24/7 sobriety program for one year.

Senator Armstrong is also a defense attorney in Dickinson.

He says he the new law could result in 15,000 more days in jail each year.

However he says he believes over time, he believes this law could result in fewer DUI arrests and convictions.

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