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House cracks down on repeated impaired driving

Posted March 19, 2013

— The House overwhelmingly approved Tuesday two measures to toughen penalties on people convicted of impaired driving.

House Bill 40 would move the trigger for a habitual impaired driving charge from three previous driving while impaired convictions with a 10-year period to two convictions. The measure passed 115-3.

Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, said the legislation is the first of five bills he's sponsoring to tighten up North Carolina's DWI laws. He estimated that the quicker trigger would put an extra 180 people in prison within two years, which he said would make North Carolina roads safer.

"We can't prevent every one of these fatalities, but we can make a difference," Jackson said.

House Bill 31, which passed 108-10, would allow prosecutors to file a habitual DWI charge against anyone previously convicted on such a charge, regardless of how long ago the earlier conviction occurred.

Co-sponsor Rep. Pat Hurley, R-Randolph. cited a Winston-Salem case in which a man convicted of habitual DWI served 17 years of a 40-year sentence for killing three people in a wreck and later faced misdemeanor DWI charges because more than 10 years had passed since his earlier conviction.

"We should know if you've had five or six or seven or eight DWIs," said co-sponsor Rep. Marcus Brandon, D-Guilford. "Name me one law in the world that you can kill a family and nobody goes back and looks."

Reps. Duane Hall, D-Wake, and Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, said they thought the bill was too harsh and needed to be rethought. House: Teen tanning, zoning/aesthetic control, habitual DWI House passes tougher DWI bills, give tentative OK to limits on city zoning

"It could be a very young person who made a mistake and then has a family and has done everything right for 30 or 40 years," Hall said.

"I'm not one who believes that drunk drivers ought to be on the road," Michaux said. "But those who have tried to make restitution, those who have served their time, those who have tried to do the right thing, why, maybe 30 years down the road, when they get picked up again should they have to go through this."

Other lawmakers said, however, that North Carolina needs to get tougher on DWI, noting that it's already difficult to obtain convictions.

"It is something that we should have zero tolerance for in this state," said Rep. Allen McNeill, R-Randolph. "No one has the right to get drunk, drive down the road and put your family or my family in jeopardy."

The House also unanimously approved a bill that would allow blood samples taken at hospitals in DWI cases to be used in court cases as long as the hospitals complied with certain rules. Rep. Tim Moore, R-Union, said the legislation is needed because the state crime lab is backlogged in such cases.

All three measures now move to the Senate.

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  • jjsmith1973 Mar 20, 2013

    Fact DWI killed less than 30% in highway fatalities in the state of NC there is a new law about every year to 6 months on DWI. There are 70% of other causes of automobile deaths and there isn't one politician that will pass a stiffer law on those because it is things people do every day. 18% of all DWI aren't related to alcohol at all which requires a blood test to prove or just observation from the officer. Per the manufacture of the intox machines they have a 3% error rate on top of that the calibration range is +-.02, & it has to maintain certain temperatures for proper readings as well as being calibrated where it is stationed b/c it is even sensative to atmospheric pressures. That's just the machine, not including user error, calibration errors, biological differences in lung capacity, etc. this is what will be used & considered by the state as proof beyound a resonable doubt to prove a person guilty for a felony. Even though it has a sucess rate less than condoms or birth control

  • jjsmith1973 Mar 20, 2013

    @lo5tinthewoods One permanent loss of license would cause an economic crisis which would result in more deaths than DWI. I do agree on the .00 for an entire different reason. Also would you have the same zero tolerance for speeding, texting while driving and being sleepy. All have same results and new studies show texting while drive now cause more accidents than DWI. Although it is a 25 dollar fine.

    @Jdupree PJC is not allowed for DWI in NC. Also, very rarely does it ever get plead. There are special rules about pleaing a DWI in NC. It is esier for a assult with a deadly weapon charge, child abuse, drug traffican, list goes on and on to plea down. There are all sorts of spelled out laws for DWI in the state. It can't be expunged, it almost can't be plead, defense can't even arguee and present things that all other states allow such as challenge how the machine actually works and it's known flaws.

  • jdupree Mar 20, 2013

    Crack down on Prosecutors and Judges that let them go by plea bargains to lesser offenses. Make these charges a mandatory trial or guilty plea. No PJC, no wreckless driving, no dismissals!

  • lo5tinthewoods Mar 20, 2013

    My guess is that the retroactive part of the law will be struck down. It's heading into very unconstitutional territory. However, I do not think that the penalty part of the law goes far enough. If we really cared about stopping driving while IMPAIRED, the legal limit would be 0.0. The penalty for a first offense should be a permanent loss of license. Those whose loved ones are lost and property is damaged don't particularly care about someone learning a lesson and changing their behaviors. If you show a blatant disregard for your driving privilege, you should lose it for good.

  • jjsmith1973 Mar 20, 2013

    If you really want to think about guess who gets the highest percentage of DWI charges Male or Female? You guessed Male because we still follow a certain social model. In 2009 Men comprised 76% of DWI fatalities.

  • jjsmith1973 Mar 20, 2013

    @retroconsultant Actually a study has been done, there are more accidents between .01 and .04 then there are between .05 and .10

  • 5Rs Mar 20, 2013

    Wrong changes, try again.

    At what level are the drivers who have killed people? Has such a study (quick one) been done/ Is it at .08 or at .1 plus?

    The one in Raleigh on Sunday - his most recent two were downgraded to something else, so he had only one conviction. If you make the laws too strong, this is what happens. So change the law to say you can't downgrade when charged with DWI and make the penalties increasingly severe.

    You can't get a drunk off the highway by changing laws - they don't think or they wouldn't get in the car. And is incarceration really the answer we want when no injuries have occurred?

  • advent 5-4942 Mar 20, 2013

    Let-it-be-said, this is not JUST about someone that has had a prior conviction and -gets- another conviction. This is about people who have ever -had- two convictions EVER being slapped with a NEW charge... a FELONY charge.

    Here's an excerpt:

    "House Bill 31, which passed 108-10, would allow prosecutors to file a habitual DWI charge against anyone PREVIOUSLY convicted"

    Anyone EVER PREVIOUSLY CONVICTED of more than one charge, CAN NOW BE CHARGED WITH A NEW FELONY HABITUAL DRIVING CHARGE WITH A MANDATORY 12 MONTH PRISON SENTENCE. No suspending the sentence.

  • jjsmith1973 Mar 20, 2013

    @let-it-be you totally missed the point of .07 you aren't a felon and .08 you are by this new law. Actually if you have a prior by NC law .04 you are over the limit and charged. So, the state says it is ok to be .o7 if you have never had one but if you have had one then .04 is over the limit. .08 on a second would be considered double the legal limit. That is why in a comment that didn't post for whatever reason I said the state should just make it zero then there isn't people playing a guessing game. Make a first violation of above .00 a heavy fine, big money and have a judge actually explain further punishment beyound one charge then base the charges upon actual driving behavior and BAC reading instead of the one size fits all system.

  • jjsmith1973 Mar 20, 2013

    @let-it-be One) no one is advocating for a person that kills someone as a result of DWI. No one is saying the person doesn't need to be held accountable. That is what a death by motor vehicle charge is. They are changing the wrong law. They need to change DWI as an agravating factor in a death by motor vehicle charge. You make my point though alcohol effects a persons ability to think and yet we make laws based on the assumption the person is going to use sound judgement. You also make another point the law swings one way if someone is below the limit can be charged, although hit the magic .08 number forgoing tolerance, physical biology which may not make you impaired they don't charge you. Plus one is suppose to pretend to know what .08 is. Even today a glass of beer, one shot, one glass of wine isn't the same after the alcohol companies have raise the alcohol content in drinks. People don't take that into account either

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