Over the weekend the Fargo Forum ran a story about “lead foot legislators,” correlating speeding offenses with the legislator’s positions on speeding fines. That was an interesting story, but an even bigger story went overlooked by the Forum, and I wonder if it had to do with the involvement of Rep. Josh Boschee who has, as the state’s firstly open gay legislator, become a bit of a media darling for the Forum.
According to the records the Forum itself uncovered, Rep. Boschee has twice been convicted of “reckless driving,” in June of 2006 and August of 2010. Now, reckless driving isn’t necessarily drunk driving, but a closer inspection of those records shows that for the 2006 offense Boschee was given, in addition to fines, a year of probation and ordered to undergo a chemical dependency evaluation. For the 2010 offense Boschee again got fines, probation and an order for chemical dependency evaluation, but also 10 hours of mandated community service.
One doesn’t typically get probation, nor mandated community service/counseling, for merely being a reckless driver. Convictions for “reckless driving” are the typical result for people who are arrested for driving under the influence but manage to get their charges reduced.
Boschee hasn’t responded to an email seeking comment sent this morning to his state email address.
Nor is Boschee the only current legislator to have alcohol-related charges. Senator Joe Miller was convicted of reckless driving, and open container, in July of 2007 for which he received fines, probation and chemical dependency counseling.
“I had passed the sobriety tests but was taken in for a blood test and subsequently got a reckless driving and an open container,” Miller told me in an email this morning. “I believe my blood test said I had a .09 BAL.” He said the open container charge came from a bottle of wine friends had left in his car earlier in the day (he’d been attending a wedding) and that he hadn’t been drinking wine.
Rep. Mike Schatz also had a conviction for DUI and open container in 2008 for which he got fines, probation and counseling.
It should be noted that both Senator Miller’s and Rep. Boschee’s convictions took place prior to their being elected to the legislature (Miller has served since 2009, Boschee is in his first session). It should also be noted that Senator Miller was part of a unanimous Senate vote in favor of SB2240 enacting tougher penalties for drunk driving (more on that here).
Now, given the amount of hype the Forum has put into the drunk driving issue leading up to this legislative session and the amount of attention drunk driving laws being considered in the session have received, you’d think these two instances might have been noteworthy. Certainly more noteworthy than the speeding tickets legislators have received.
Yet, the Forum didn’t cover them. Is it because their media darling, Rep. Boschee, was involved? Again, given the amount of attention they’ve spent on the DUI issue in general, two legislators with convictions for alcohol-related driving offenses might be newsworthy.
Update: Not sure how I missed it, but Rep. Mike Schatz also had a DUI conviction from 2008. I’ve updated the post to reflect that.