Tougher DUI laws necessary

It certainly appears that tougher penalties are on the horizon for motorists caught driving under the influence in North Dakota.

The state Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 2240 this week, which would dramatically increase the penalties for DUI offenses.

A first offense would bring a $500 fine, and if the person’s blood alcohol content was higher than .18, the sentence would include two days in jail or 20 hours of community service.

A?second offense within seven years would bring 10 days in jail, a $1,000 fine and a mandatory 12 month-participation in the 24/7 program, where violators must submit to alcohol testing twice a day. A?third offense in seven years would bring a 120-day jail sentence, a fine of at least $2,000 and a minimum of two years probation and participation in the 24/7 program.

The new law would bring with it issues that must be dealt with. Cities must be prepared to handle the increased usage of the 24/7 program. There will undoubtedly be more short-time residents in county jails, at a time when some jails, especially in the western part of the state, are already crowded. Then there’s the issue of funding.

Having said that, North Dakota absolutely needs to strengthen its laws against driving under the influence, which have been too lenient for some time now. Senate Bill 2240 would be a good start toward reducing the number of repeat offenders in the state. We anticipate it will also pass the House, and become law soon after. And that will be a good thing for the citizens of the state.