North Dakota lawmaker who insulted police in DUI stop gets unsupervised probation and $1,000 fine

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota lawmaker who insulted police with vulgar, homophobic and anti-migrant comments during an arrest last month for drunken driving was sentenced to serve nearly a year of unsupervised probation and to pay $1,000.

Republican state Rep. Nico Rios, of Williston, received the sentence on Jan. 8, when he pleaded guilty to drunken driving, court records show. His sentence includes a 10-day suspended jail sentence, a mandatory evaluation and a victim impact panel. A misdemeanor charge of refusing a chemical test was dismissed. He must also pay $50 for an open container violation.

Text and email messages were sent to Rios seeking comment Thursday. A phone message was also left with his attorney.

Rios' sentence is consistent with others for similar offenses, said criminal defense attorney Mark Friese, a long-time practitioner in DUI cases. He noted that Rios' driving privileges will be suspended automatically for 91 days.

“It does not appear that he was treated more harshly than other people in similar situations," Friese said. “My guess is that the judge recognizes ... there are multiple entities here that are going to hold Mr. Rios to account.”

Police body-camera footage from the Dec. 15 traffic stop, requested by and provided to the AP, shows Rios cursing an officer, repeatedly questioning his English accent, and using homophobic slurs and anti-migrant language. He also said he would call the North Dakota attorney general about the situation. He told the officers they would “regret picking on me because you don’t know who ... I am.”

He has faced growing calls from his party to resign, including the House majority leader and state and local Republican Party officials.

Last week, Republican House Majority Leader Mike Lefor removed him from the Legislature's interim Judiciary Committee, saying it wouldn't be fair for law enforcement officers to testify in front of a committee of which Rios is a member. The House-Senate panel meets between legislative sessions for studies of topics related to law enforcement and the legal system for future or potential legislation.

Rios has said he is “seriously mulling all aspects” of his future, and plans to seek help for alcoholism, but he has made no plans to resign. He also previously said he takes responsibility for his “disgusting actions," and apologized “to those I have hurt and disappointed," including law enforcement officers.

Rios has said he was leaving a Christmas party before police pulled him over.

Rios, who works in an oil field position involved in the hydraulic fracturing of wells, was elected unopposed in 2022 to a four-year term in the state House of Representatives. Republicans control the House, 82-12.