BISMARCK, N.D. _ A bill enacting stricter drunken driving penalties in North Dakota is now awaiting the governor’s signature after final passage in the Legislature on Thursday.
The Senate accepted a conference committee report on House Bill 1302 and voted 44-0 in favor of its passage.
First and second DUI convictions will be Class B misdemeanors, a third conviction will be a Class A misdemeanor and subsequent convictions will be Class C felonies, under the bill.
HB1302 also creates a new vehicular homicide provision and requires offenders to be sober for one year under the 24/7 Sobriety Program, on a second conviction.
Sen. Kelly Armstrong, R-Dickinson, said he believes enforcement of the new law should go fairly smoothly.
“I think you’ll see stricter enforcement,” Armstrong said.
He said he does not believe the law will overwhelm courts or jails. One fear legislators heard during committee hearings, he said, was that judges or prosecutors would go around the law and charge more people with reckless driving rather than DUI.
“I’m just speaking for myself, but we had to make it as harsh as we could without making it impossible to work,” Armstrong said.
State law already has provisions that can be used to keep jails from being overcrowded, including staggering days served and serving time during the week, Armstrong said.
Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, called HB1302 a first step in addressing the state’s culture of drinking and driving.
“The end result is a bill that is tough but also workable,” Koppelman said. “North Dakota is no longer a state that tolerates drunk driving.”