Gov. Jack Dalrymple today signed House Bill 1302 to strengthen North Dakota law against drunk driving and enhance traffic safety across the state. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, other law enforcement officers, legislators and family members who have lost loved ones to drunk drivers attended the bill signing in support of the new law's passage.
"This legislation carries a clear message that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a very serious offense and will not be tolerated," Dalrymple said. "The new law includes tougher penalties and many offenders will be required to participate in an intensive program to monitor and enforce sobriety.
"This new law is enforceable, it is a stronger deterrent and it will help save lives," Dalrymple said.
Supporters of the tougher DUI legislation gathered around Dalrymple in the Capitol's Memorial Hall to watch the governor sign the bill into law. Joining Dalrymple for the bill signing were Tom and Arlene Deutscher and Lynn and Donna Mickelson, the parents of Aaron and Allison Deutscher and the grandparents of Brielle Deutscher who were killed by a drunken driver July 6, 2012. Juan Ruiz and Sandy Hernandez who lost their two young boys, Cyris and Alaries, to a drunk driver on July 8, 2012, also attended the bill signing. Others who attended included the bill's prime sponsor, Rep. Kim Koppelman, other legislators, North Dakota Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. James Prochniak, and state Department of Transportation Interim Director Grant Levi.
"No longer will drunk drivers be able to refuse to submit to an alcohol test, as nearly one in five do, and thereby deprive the courts of crucial proof of DUI," Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said. "If there is probable cause to believe a person is driving under the influence and they try to hide behind a refusal to submit to a test, they will be subject to the same punishment as if they were convicted of the DUI."
North Dakota's strengthened DUI law will take effect Aug. 1.
"We've sent a powerful message, supported by so many," Koppleman said. "This marks the culmination of a long, collaborative effort involving law enforcement officials, prosecutors, defense attorneys, the Governor, the Attorney General, corrections officials and the families of victims of drunk driving."
Key provisions of the new law include:
- A new charge of aggravated Driving Under the Influence (DUI) for first-time offenders whose blood-alcohol content (BAC) is higher than 0.16.
- Mandatory enrollment in the 24/7 Sobriety Program for anyone convicted of two or more DUI offenses. The program requires offenders submit to mandatory breath tests or the use of remote alcohol monitors.
- Significant increases in mandatory jail sentences for repeat offenders. First-time offenders with BAC higher than 0.16 must serve at least two days in jail or perform 10 hours of community service per day of jail time sentenced. First-time offenders currently do not face any mandatory sentence of jail or community service.
- Creating a Class A felony offense for a driver, while in violation of the DUI law, to cause the death of another person. The charge of criminal vehicular homicide carries a mandatory three-year prison sentence and a mandatory 10-year prison sentence if the offender was previously convicted of DUI or reckless driving. The maximum prison sentence is 20 years. Currently, the offense may be charged as a Class B felony offense under the state's manslaughter statute or a Class C felony under the state's negligent homicide statute, both of which carry shorter maximum sentences.
- Creating a Class C felony offense for a driver who, while in violation of the DUI law, causes serious injures another person. The charge of criminal vehicular injury carries a mandatory prison sentence of one year and a mandatory two-year sentence if the offender was previously convicted of DUI or reckless driving.
- Providing $360,000 to support statewide education outreach regarding the dangers involved in drinking and driving.