MADD voices concern over plan to limit ALE agents' arrest ability
Posted 5:40 p.m. Thursday
Updated 7:15 a.m. Friday
Raleigh, N.C. — Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has joined the chorus of concern about a provision in the North Carolina Senate's budget proposal that would limit the arrest ability of Alcohol Law Enforcement agents and officers for local Alcoholic Beverage Control boards.
ALE agents and ABC officers focus on alcohol-related crimes, but they often get involved in drug cases, investigation of illegal video poker and impaired driving arrests.
The provision, on page 239 of the Senate budget, says they can only work cases related to alcohol or lottery crimes or when other law enforcement agencies ask for assistance.
"Those powers seem to be significantly restricted and, again, from MADD's perspective, that would concern us," said Irene Dwinnell, leader of the statewide chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "We do support law enforcement, and we need law enforcement to have their powers to help us take drunk drivers off our roads."
Sen. Shirley Randleman, R-Wilkes, the author of the provision, declined to comment Thursday, other than to say she hadn't heard any complaints from the ALE or ABC.
Earlier this week, she issued a statement that said, "The intent is not to limit their authority to enforce the law, it is to clarify their scope of jurisdiction.”
One of Randleman’s legislative aides sent documentation showing that her amendment softened the original language in the budget. The provision, which originally simply limited ALE and ABC agents to "investigatory and enforcement actions for any offense related to the ABC and lottery laws" had been amended to allow ALE and ABE agents to enforce other laws under two conditions:
"When they have probable cause to believe that a person has committed a criminal act in their presence and at the time of the violation they are engaged in the enforcement of laws otherwise within their jurisdiction.
When they are asked to provide temporary assistance by the head of a State or local law enforcement agency or the head of the agency's designee."
Still, Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, who voted for the unanimously approved budget amendment, was surprised at the apparent impact of the provision.
"So often these minor amendments get run in a budget that's voluminous, and people aren't even aware of the implications or sometimes the full implications are not even shared," he said.
"We should be giving them greater powers, not fewer powers."
McKissick said he hopes the provision is changed in the House version of the budget.
Sources told WRAL News that there's a turf war as the State Bureau of Investigation and ALE are put under the same leadership umbrella. But, no one was able to give a straight answer about the motive for the move to limit ALE and ABC authority.