$5,000 fine debated over refusal to leave property

Lawmakers questioned the specifics Wednesday of a bill that would allow officers to fine people $5,000 for refusing to leave an environmentally sensitive area.
Drafted in response to Dakota Access Pipeline protests, the bill’s supporters cited the need for public safety during demonstrations that have cost state taxpayers millions of dollars for law enforcement to contain.
The lone opponent’s testimony centered on the constitutionality of Senate Bill 2246, saying it doesn’t provide for the ability to contest such a fine in court.
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“It’s a due process violation,” Jackson Lofgren, president of the North Dakota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
If approved, the bill would allow officers to order people to leave private or public property as well as areas deemed dangerous due to being environmentally sensitive. An area that’s deemed environmentally sensitive includes an area that might be prone to flooding, a blizzard or other severe weather hazard.
Prime bill sponsor Sen. Dick Dever, R-Bismarck, said the exact amount of the fine is negotiable since it’s higher than any other misdemeanor in state statute.
Dever said it wasn’t a specific statement on the protests in southern Morton County but would apply to them effective March 1.
“This is very serious business,” Dever said of the public safety risk of flooding this spring.

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