New North Dakota legislation seeks to stiffen penalties for DUI offenders including requiring jail time for first time DUI offenders.
The legislation comes after a wrong-way crash that caused the death of four people. Wyatt Klein, who was driving a pickup truck with a blood alcohol content of 0.25 percent, veered into oncoming traffic. He collided with an SUV carrying Allison Deutscher, her husband, Aaron Deutscher, and their 18-year old daughter, Brielle Deutscher. Allison was pregnant at the time. All, including Klein were killed in the accident.
Rep. Kim Koppelman, who sponsored the new legislation, said, “Finally, I think people look at tragedies like this and the closer to home they hit, of course, the more they affect us. It’s sort of a critical mass kind of thing. You get to a point where you say enough already.”
What has become known as “Brielle’s Law” would make North Dakota one of 15 states that requires jail time for first-time DUI offenders. Under the current law, first-time offenders serve no jail time while second-time offenders serve a minimum of 10 days. The new law would require first-time offenders to serve a minimum of four days in jail, second-time offenders would serve a minimum of 10 days, third time offenders would serve a minimum of 60 days, and a fourth or more DUI convictions would require one year.
In addition to the increased jail time, the law would also require mandatory blood tests, probation and participation in a sobriety program. The program requires offenders to report to a law enforcement center twice a day and submit a breath test to prove that they are sober. If the offender cannot report twice a day, they are required to wear an ankle bracelet that would ensure sobriety. Essentially, the new law would require complete sobriety from offenders.
Although the proposed law will only affect DUIs committed within the state of North Dakota, it’s important to address the potential issues with such a law as it may serve as a trend setter for DUI legislation in other states.
Will law enforcement agencies have to increase staff to accommodate the twice-a-day visitors? Would the increase in mandatory blood tests overburden hospitals and clinics? Will they too have to increase staff? What impact will this legislation have the already overcrowding of jails, not just with the short-term mandatory jail time, but also with those who do not remain completely sober?