WRAL Investigates

After eight convictions, Wake woman finally charged with habitual DWI

Posted May 17, 2016
Updated May 18, 2016

— Court records show Penny Seagroves has been convicted eight times for impaired driving since 2001: four times in Wake County and once each in Durham, Franklin, Granville and Edgecombe counties.

Based on her record, the Zebulon woman could have been prosecuted as a felon six times for habitual drunk driving, yet all of her convictions have been for misdemeanor DWI. She has spent a total of 24 months in state prison.

When WRAL Investigates began asking authorities about her case, Wake County's District Attorney Lorrin Freeman took another look at it, and a grand jury on Tuesday indicted Seagroves on a charge of habitual drunk driving.

Seagroves was arrested Tuesday evening and was being held in the Wake County jail under a $50,000 bond.

"I honestly really do think she is dangerous to society, to the community," said Seagroves' daughter, Faye Lopez.

Lopez contacted WRAL Investigates after Seagroves was charged with DWI again, this time in Wake County in February.

"It's an endless battle," Lopez said. "She never wants to stop, and I don't think she's ever going to stop until she takes her own life or until she takes someone else's, honestly."

WRAL Investigates first looked into Seagroves' record five years ago when the state rolled out a new program that gave police officers roadside access to more court records. During a traffic stop, an officer found Seagroves was wanted in four different counties on five drunk driving charges.

"She would move us from house to house to house to actually avoid being arrested," Lopez said. "She would go under different aliases all the time."

In her eight convictions, Seagroves was identified in court records by seven different names, which is why she never faced a habitual DWI charge previously. Franklin County authorities said recently they missed her prior convictions when she was convicted of DWI there in 2013 – her most recent conviction.

A new law enforcement computer system, called Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services, or CJLEADS, would help connect the dots in such cases, but it's still being rolled out across the state.

Court records from the February arrest show that, at 8:48 a.m., Seagroves had a blood-alcohol level of 0.09, above the level at which drivers are considered impaired in North Carolina. Because of her previous DWI convictions, she didn't have a license, so the car she was driving was seized.

But that hasn't stopped her from driving. A WRAL News crew watched her get into a car and drive away from work earlier this month, although court records show she doesn't have a license or special privileges to drive.

Court records also reveal more than 50 prior charges of driving with a revoked license and driving a car that's not properly registered or insured. All were dismissed.

"I believe that stronger laws need to be enforced," Lopez said.

Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, wants to strengthen the state law on habitual DWI offenders. A bill he filed last year, which cleared the House but remains in a Senate committee, would reduce the number of DWI convictions needed before a habitual DWI charge can be filed against a driver.

"The goal is to protect the public safety by getting her off the road but also get her the help she needs," Jackson said.

Yet, he acknowledged there's only so much law enforcement and the courts can do to make people follow the rules. He called Seagroves' case "heartbreaking" and said he fears it could have a tragic ending.

"When you see someone do this over and over again, it's just a matter of time before they kill someone," he said.

Seagroves declined to comment about her driving record when a WRAL News crew spotted her driving home last week.

"If people want to call me a rat, it's OK, but I'm saving somebody's life today," Lopez said.

For Lopez, alcohol abuse has already taken a toll on her family. She was charged with DWI years ago and said she nearly died from drinking, and her sister is serving serving nine years in prison for a drunk driving crash in Harnett County that killed a passenger in her car.

Lopez said she hopes lawmakers, police and court officials hear her story for the sake of the community and her mother.

If convicted of felony habitual DWI, Seagroves could be sentenced to about two years in prison.


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  • Maureen Mercer May 27, 2016
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    Hope she dries out in prison or dies before she kills or injures someone.

  • Marcia Maloney May 18, 2016
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    I'm glad I don't have the urge to drink because I look at these women and I see how alcohol has aged them - Secondly, I wouldn't want to endanger another persons life by going out having a good time and getting behind the wheel- how heartless!

  • Sharon Walker May 18, 2016
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    How is her sentence only going to be 2 years? Her close personal experience with her sister already being in prison for killing a passenger while drunk driving obviously didn't teach her anything or affect her feelings about needing to get help. This piece of human waste needs to be locked up and throw away the key for public safety sake, I believe in second chances, maybe even third sometimes but for heavens sake 8 times-NO. She should have never had a chance to get away with numbers 4 thru 8 really!

  • Jim Hinnant May 18, 2016
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    What a crew.

  • Chris Cole May 18, 2016
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    View quoted thread

    The daughter said she thinks she is a danger to society.

    I'm just going to take a stab and say that maybe they had the not in there by accident before anyone now read the article.

  • Elizabeth Hawkins May 18, 2016
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    I am wondering how does she continue to get cars to drive. She smokes a very expensive habit. She drinks a very expensive habit. How does she pay for all this stuff? I wonder if she is getting any freebies from the state? She definitely needs help and when she gets to jail, she will have 2 addictions to overcome. Hopefully 2 years will be enough, but somehow, I don't think so.

  • Bernadette Dan Unger May 18, 2016
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    Glad to see we have a "8 Strikes" policy. The daughter said she is not a danger to society.....until she kills someone, then it's too late. Now add driving suspended, no registration, etc and charged dropped, folks, our system is BROKE. She should have been Godsmacked after the second offense, but we can thank lawyers and judges for this type of behavior. Do ya think it may be time for some new judges, we have the laws, just nobody to uphold them. If you put her away for a few years, she may dry out, but all this lack of legal "stones" is only helping her ultimately kill an innocent person or family on the road. Ask a family that has lost a loved one to a drunk driver, you might get a clue.

  • Erica Konopka May 18, 2016
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    This is ridiculous. She gets to habitually drive loaded in an unregistered, uninsured car and charges are dismissed. I've got a friend who got a DWI then moved out of state. 20+ years later he moved back and they immediately took his license for several years. Now he's fighting to get it back and the red tape they are making him wade through, on a SINGLE charge from almost 30 years ago is shameful, yet good ol' Penny Seagroves has been driving around endangering all of us for more than a decade. Makes sense.....

  • Tracy Lane May 18, 2016
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    My son and I were hit head-on by an impaired driver in 2013. Fortunately, we survived. She also didn't have insurance or proper registration. No one looks for these people. You never know what you're meeting on the road. AND, we haven't been to court yet. Our justice system needs an overhaul.

  • Chris Davis May 18, 2016
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    Love to see ral follow their illegal buds around like this!