Proposed DUI Legislation | VideoJessica Roose | 1/14/2013
In 2012, the highway patrol arrested 1,900 drivers for driving under the influence on North Dakota roads.
"The DUI problem is becoming an epidemic in a lot of ways and the problem, I think, in our state is that DUIs are generally met with a wink and a nod or a sigh of relief. `Gee I`m glad it wasn`t me that got caught.` But then when a drunk driver kills someone, we`re all outraged," Koppelman said.
Last year 51 percent of fatal accidents involved someone who was under the influence. Koppelman hopes those who are caught will soon face a higher penalty. "Right now, under law, people could be sentenced to 30 days in jail for a DUI, but that never happens. It`s always, virtually always, a suspended sentence. So this bill would change in the fact that on a first offense someone would spend a couple of days in jail."
It would also increase the fines from $250 for a first offense to $750.
"Hopefully we can come out of here at the end with some stiffer penalties and ultimately something that helps provide for a deterrent for motorists out there to avoid these problems of drinking and driving and making better decisions," said Sgt. Tom Iverson with the North Dakota Highway Patrol.
The bill will be assigned to a committee and then debated on the floor. Koppelman says he knows that if the bill is passed it might not look exactly how he proposed it, as long as it saves lives. "We don`t want to tell people they can`t drink. We don`t want to tell people they can`t drive. But we do want to tell them you shouldn`t be doing both."
Since the bill was just introduced, Iverson says the highway patrol hasn`t had a chance to look it over. He says they will always be supportive of stiffer fines and ways to keep drunk drivers off the road.
Lawmakers in past sessions have tried to pass stricter penalties but they haven`t had much success.