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Senate rejects ban on sobriety checkpoints

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The North Dakota Senate has rejected a bill to prohibit “sobriety checkpoints.”

The House had earlier passed it. The main sponsor – Rep. Rick Becker (R-Bismarck) – argued that “saturation patrols” were much more effective in arresting drunk drivers. But in the Senate debate, Sen. Diane Larson (R-Bismarck) said that’s not the point for the checkpoints.

"The goal of sobriety checkpoints is to prevent drinking and driving, not to arrest drunk drivers," Larson said.

Larson told the Senate law enforcement makes public where the checkpoints will be, in the effort to get people to think twice before driving while impaired.

But Sen. Oley Larsen (R-Minot) said saturation patrols happen during a law enforcement officer’s normal work day, while checkpoints involve overtime pay – much of which is covered by federal grants. Larson argued that while there was no opposition testimony in the House, those who showed up to oppose the bill in the Senate committee were government employees.

"We didn't have that citizen who came up and said, 'Oh, these (checkpoints) were such great ideas," Larsen said. "It was the people who are going to miss out on their overtime check."

The bill failed on a 36 to 10 vote.

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