A two-and-a-half hour hearing Tuesday on the proposed changes to North Dakota’s DUI laws showed it was mostly supported, with a group of defense attorneys testifying neutral.
The highly-anticipated hearing on House Bill 1302, brought forth by Rep. Kim Koppelman (R-West Fargo), yielded victims and victims’ families testifying for the bill, along with law enforcement officials from the Highway Patrol and other agencies, as well as Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.
Koppelman said the defense attorneys offered no opposition but suggested a study be conducted to ensure the need for a law change is well-researched.
“It was a collaborative effort drafting this bill,” Koppelman said.
The representative officially introduced the bill to the Legislature on Jan. 14 but held a December news conference with Gov. Jack Dalrymple in West Fargo, announcing what the bill would contain and that it would be introduced this session.
Koppelman said one law on drinking and driving won’t curb the act completely but added things need to change in North Dakota.
“We need a culture change,” he said. “Drinking and driving is not OK. DUIs here are just a wink and nod and those dots don’t connect.”
On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Tim Mathern (D-Fargo) introduced a bill that would offer different DUI penalties, along with an ignition interlock system. Senate Bill 2240 was introduced Jan. 21.
Koppelman said the ignition interlocks are quite different from the 24/7 program in his bill. He said the interlocks can easily be blown into by other people, allowing the person with the DUI to continue driving.
He added it isn’t rare for people in North Dakota to have multiple cars, all of which may not have the system.
The 24/7 system, on the other hand, requires the person to come into a law enforcement center for the breath test.