Local News

Law stiffens penalties in death-by-motor vehicle cases

Posted August 27, 2009
Updated November 26, 2012

— Those convicted of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle could face much tougher penalties.

Gov. Bev Perdue on Thursday signed a bill into law that, according to lawmakers, gives judges the authority to sentence those convicted of the charge as much as 60 days in jail.
It takes effect Dec. 1.

Tougher sentencing for death by vehicle under new law Tougher sentencing for death by vehicle under new law

The governor was joined by lawmakers and two families whose stories prompted the law.

"People are careless. People disregard the law," said Marbeth Holmes. "Most collisions are avoidable, if people followed the law."

Holmes' parents, Jimmy and Mary Charles Holmes, were killed in June 2008 on U.S. Highway 401 in Franklin County when a driver crossed the center line, striking their car head-on.

Michael Martin, 16, was killed in Cabarrus County in 2005 when the car he was riding in slammed into a tree.

Under current sentencing structures, the people responsible for the crimes received a suspended sentence, probation and had their licenses revoked for two years.

“A judge needs to have the discretion to determine what is the appropriate punishment," said Sen. Doug Berger, D-Franklin, who sponsored a Senate version of the bill. "Under current law, no matter how serious the circumstances surrounding the misconduct leading to the death are, a judge is limited in not being able to utilize jail time as a consequence.”

"It's a very small step, but it's a good step," Michael Martin's father, Mike Martin, said.

Both families are still lobbying for more regulations, such as mandatory toxicology reports on any crash involving a fatality.

"Not every person that kills somebody on the highway is a bad person," Holmes said. "It's not about bad. It's about justice."

21 Comments

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  • no taco p Aug 28, 2:22 p.m.

    My wife was killed over 6.5 years ago in a car accident on New Year’s eve at 6:40pm. The driver pleaded guilty to misdemeanor death by motor vehicle and running a red light. The driver was never tested for alcohol or drugs, and only received 4 points on his license. The only consolation I had was that he couldn’t afford insurance after the accident. But that doesn’t mean that he didn’t drive. I wish they would have put more into this law like, mandatory drug and alcohol testing along with having their license revoked for 2 years.

  • james27613 Aug 27, 6:27 p.m.

    Vic got stiffer jail time for killing dogs.

    60 days why bother, will cost the taxpayers much more.

  • boingc Aug 27, 5:27 p.m.

    "Its a shame when a accident will get you more time than stealing things now days."

    No, it's a shame when you kill somebody because you're not paying attention to the road!

  • boingc Aug 27, 5:26 p.m.

    "An accident is just that an accident."

    This statement is SO not true! If you cause an accident because you're texting, it's NOT an accident -- you WEREN'T PAYING ATTENTION! If you cause an accident because you're reading a book, it is also NOT AN ACCIDENT! You receive a charge of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle due to NEGLIGENCE, which is what this law is about. If you swerve all over the road, not signaling, not checking your blind spot, it's NOT AN ACCIDENT! Wake up and drive!

  • boomylar Aug 27, 5:25 p.m.

    60 DAYS... ARE YOU KIDDING ME? ONLY 60 DAYS WOW. WAY TO GO. LETTING SOME ONE OFF IN 2 MONTHS. MY GOD, WHAT HAS THIS WORLD COME TO. I HAD TO SIT ON A JURY WERE AT STUP ID WOMAN KILL A MARINE, WHO DID THE RIGHT THING AND WAS WALKING HOME INSTEAD OF DRIVING. THE MARINE LOST HIS WIFE NOT EVEN A MONTH BEFORE HE WAS KILLED LEAVING THEIR 3 KIDS PARENTLESS. AND SHE GOT 30DAYS IN JAIL

  • mypaint Aug 27, 5:17 p.m.

    An accident is just that an accident. Why should you have to spend time in jail for an accident. Now there are times when you should like DUI or driving with no license or insurance etc.
    Its a shame when a accident will get you more time than stealing things now days.

  • tran Aug 27, 5:14 p.m.

    Many accidents are caused by distracted drivers. Much of the so called road rage is directed at distracted drivers. Distracted drivers make unsafe lane changes, run off the road, cross the center line, rear end other vehicles and run stop lights/signs. Cell phone conversations are common place. Texting has become common. I've seen people with laptops, newspapers, books and other papers reading while driving. Sometimes they just hold up traffic, oblivious that they are a rolling roadblock. There is no way anyone can possibly operate a motor vehicle while reading! I doubt any stats are being kept on how many crashes are due to distracted drivers, in particular drivers reading something. Serious penalties are imposed on drivers caught with excessive blood alcohol levels whether or not they actually cause a wreck but the same can't be said for distracted drivers, particularly drivers reading something.

  • AnotherIgnoredComment Aug 27, 5:06 p.m.

    wow, 60 dails, county jail...oooooo...scarryyyy

  • working for deadbeats Aug 27, 4:47 p.m.

    60 days! Bwwwwwwwwwwwaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaahhhhhaaaaaa!

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Aug 27, 4:33 p.m.

    Wow. Good job. You really made a difference in our quality of life. People who get in wrecks and kill someone, whether they are under the influence or not, didn't maliciously want to kill someone. I'm not saying this new law doesn't help some. But if you really want to help quality of life, concentrate on making sentencing guidelines VERY strict for malicious killers. Anyone that needs to be sentenced to more than 20 years in prison should be put to death.

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