FARGO - A law that forbids bars and restaurants from serving drinks to an "obviously intoxicated person" will get easier to enforce under proposed changes by Police Chief David Todd, city leaders heard at their meeting Monday night, May 7.

The 2003 law now requires that this act not only be seen by a police officer but at least one "corroborating witness."

"A lot of times when we're in establishments and we are taking enforcement action, whatever that enforcement action might be, people are hesitant to get involved," Todd said. "This allows us to continue on with the investigation whether we have a corroborating witness or not. It makes the ordinance more usable. It has not been a very usable ordinance up to this point."

He noted that no other city law requires a witness.

City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, worried about drunken fights and other problems that sometimes accompany the concentration of bars downtown, had suggested police crack down on bars that overserve. Mayor Tim Mahoney suggested this is a response to that, though the law would apply to all liquor license holders.

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Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to receive and file the proposed change to the law. The change becomes law after the commission votes two more times at two future meetings.

The change already went through the Liquor Control Board, which is watched closely by many license holders, and Todd said he hasn't heard any opposition. No license holder spoke at Monday's meeting.

The chief said the change doesn't reduce the standard of proof police must provide and the law does define what it means by "obviously intoxicated."

Signs include exaggerated clumsiness such as falling off bar stools and spilling drinks, slurred speech, confusion about locations and dates, smelling strongly of alcohol, vomiting and urinating on one's self.

License holders who violate the law would be subject to fines and having their license suspended.