North Dakota lawmakers defeat bill aiming to outlaw DUI checkpoints

The North Dakota Senate voted against legislation Thursday, March 14, that would have outlawed DUI checkpoints. Special to The Forum
The North Dakota Senate voted against legislation Thursday, March 14, that would have outlawed DUI checkpoints. Special to The Forum

BISMARCK — Members of the North Dakota Senate voted down legislation Thursday, March 14, that would have banned law enforcement agencies from using DUI checkpoints to catch drunken drivers.

House Bill 1442, which would have outlawed DUI checkpoints and required police to have “reasonable suspicion” to stop a driver, failed in a 10-36 vote of the Senate on Thursday.

While some view DUI checkpoints as an ineffective enforcement method, police leaders see them as a valuable tool that not only stops drunken drivers but also prevents impaired driving in the first place.

Those sentiments were reflected during Thursday's session when Sen. Diane Larson, R-Bismarck, said the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from the North Dakota Department of Human Services, law enforcement organizations and representatives from North Dakota counties in support of DUI checkpoints as a deterrent.

The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, said it's unlikely the bill will be reintroduced at a later time given the opposition it has faced from law enforcement. “My opinion stands that the arguments against the bill is a very, very weak argument,” Becker said.

The bill passed the House in a 79-14 vote and went to the Senate Judiciary Committee where lawmakers gave it a “do not pass” recommendation.

Becker previously told The Forum that for DUI checkpoints to be more effective they need to be conducted more frequently.

Data from North Dakota law enforcement agencies shows that only a fraction of DUI arrests result from checkpoints.

In 62 DUI checkpoints conducted between October 2004 and August 2014 by the Fargo Police Department, 179 people were arrested for drunken driving out of 10,732 drivers.

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office conducted a checkpoint in 2016 and another in 2017. Out of 333 vehicles that were stopped, 33 drivers were evaluated and six were arrested. In 2016 and 2017, sheriff’s deputies made 45 arrests for DUI or alcohol-related charges from 215 vehicles stopped by roving sobriety patrols.