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North Dakota House leader's DUI sentence 'very consistent' with others
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North Dakota House leader's DUI sentence 'very consistent' with others

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A judge on Wednesday ordered a top North Dakota lawmaker to complete nearly a year of unsupervised probation and to pay $750 after he pleaded guilty to drunken driving.

South Central District Judge Pamela Nesvig also ordered House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Louser, R-Minot, to obtain a chemical dependency evaluation by December and complete recommended treatment by March.

He also must violate no criminal laws during his unsupervised probation. The judge also handed him a 10-day suspended jail sentence.

Fargo attorney Mark Friese, who specializes in DUI cases, told the Tribune that Louser's sentence is "very consistent with what we typically see in similar cases."

The $750 includes a $500 fine and court costs that are all minimums required by law and "very, very common" for the circumstances of the offense, Friese said.

The order for the evaluation also is required by law. The followup on recommendations are not, but most judges include it, he said.

A suspended jail sentence also is "very, very common" for a first-offense DUI, he said.

"I'm heartened by the fact that judges are going to do their very best and prosecutors are going to do their very best to treat similarly-situated people similarly," Friese said.

Nesvig on Friday had canceled Louser's trial set for Thursday due to his guilty plea.

His attorney, Justin Vinje, told the Tribune on Monday, "After careful thought, Scott does not intend to proceed to trial. As I said back in April, Scott brought this matter to the public’s attention before the story broke, and he personally apologized to his constituents.

"Scott regrets his decision to drive that evening, and he takes full responsibility for his actions. Scott has great respect for our law enforcement professionals and their difficult jobs. Above all, Scott does not wish to be treated differently than any other North Dakotan. These considerations led him to make this decision," Vinje said.

Louser was stopped on Expressway between Mandan and Bismarck shortly before 1 a.m. on April 16, two weeks before the 2021 Legislature adjourned.

The Highway Patrol trooper who arrested him said he observed Louser's vehicle cross the center line "multiple times," and that Louser failed three field sobriety tests and at jail tested for a blood alcohol content of 0.117%, over the 0.08 legal limit.

Louser issued a statement the day following his arrest apologizing and saying he was taking "the necessary next steps including an evaluation process." He's been in the House since 2010.

Days after Louser's arrest, House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington said, “Everybody makes a mistake. This is his first one. If he had a history of it, it’d be a different deal, but he doesn’t have a history of that, and I think folks like us should be willing to give him a break.”

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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