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Legislature looking at significant penalty changes for DUI charges

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opinion Fargo, 58102

Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

One of the questions which will be answered during the legislative session in Bismarck will be whether driving under the influence penalties will change in North Dakota. House Bill 1302 and Senate Bill 2240 as currently written will make significant changes relating to both the penalty and the sanctions against a person’s driving privileges if you are convicted of driving under the influence.

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Current North Dakota law relating to driving under the influence (DUI) establishes a person’s driving privileges will be suspended for 91 days if they have not previously been found guilty of DUI within the preceeding five years. One year suspension if there was a previous conviction in five years and two years suspense if it is the third conviction in five years. Minimum criminal penalties include a minimum of $250 fine and no jail time for the first DUI offense in five years. A second offense in five years would receive a $500 fine and five days in jail or 30 days of community service. A third offense in five years would receive a $1000 fine and ten days in jail. A fourth or subsequent offense in seven years would receive $1000 fine and ten days in jail. Penalties can be increased to the maximum allowed based on the classification of the offense by the judge before whom the matter is heard.

Under HB 1302 driver’s license suspensions would be the same as current law expect a DUI conviction within ten years would be counted. For the first offense DUI in ten years a fine of $500 ($750 and ten days jail if the person is at a blood alcohol content above .20). A second offense in ten years would receive a fine of $1500 and ten days in jail. A third offense in ten years would receive a fine of $2000 and 60 days in jail. A fourth or subsequent offense would receive $3000 and one year in jail. Penalties can be increased to the maximum allowed based on the classification of the offense by the judge before whom the matter is heard.

With SB 2240 driver’s license suspensions would be the same as current law except a DUI conviction within seven years would be counted. For the first offense DUI in seven years would receive a fine of $500 (plus two days in jail if the blood alcohol content is .18 or above.). A second offense DUI in seven years would receive a fine of $1000 and ten days in jail. A third offense DUI in seven years would receive a fine of $2000 and 120 days in jail (no more than 90 percent of the sentence can be served as house arrest). A fourth offense in a person’s lifetime would result in a fine of $1000 and a year in jail. Penalties can be increased to the maximum allowed based on the classification of the offense by the judge before whom the matter is heard.

For some comparison: in Canada the first offense is $1000 and one year license suspension; a second offense receives 30 days in jail and two year license suspension; a third or subsequent offense receives a 120 days in jail and three year license suspension. In Arizona a first offense will result in $1450 fine; mandatory use of an ignition interlock system for one year and community service. The ignition interlock carries a $200 installation fee and monthly service rental fees of $100.

HB 1302 and SB 2240 are being discussed in committee. If passed, they will go to a conference committee to negotiate differences in the bills. The final bill will be voted upon on the floor, and if successful, forwarded to the governor for his signature.

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