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Should licenses be suspended in death-by-motor-vehicle cases?

Posted August 5, 2008
Updated August 6, 2008

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— A woman whose parents were killed in a head-on collision in Franklin County wants tougher penalties for those facing charges in death-by-motor-vehicle cases.

Marbeth Holmes' parents, James Preston Holmes, 65, and Mary Charles Holmes, 65, of Louisburg, were killed June 27 when a pickup truck crossed the center line along U.S. Highway 401, colliding with Holmes' Corvette.

The truck's driver, Louis Mahler Joyner, 21, of Louisburg, is charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle.

While his case is pending, he is allowed to drive. Under state law, licenses are only suspended for motorists charged with driving while impaired.

"We were horrified and stunned," Holmes said, of finding out that Joyner still has his license.

She wants drivers charged with death-by-motor-vehicle to have their licenses suspended for a minimum of 30 days.

Former federal prosecutor Kieran Shanahan says such a change would mean that state legislators would have to agree the charge is enough to remove someone's driving privilege.

He called it an uphill battle.

"You don't, on the one hand, want to just punitively single somebody out," Shanahan said.

Sen. Doug Berger, D-Franklin, said he would be receptive to hearing Holmes' proposal, which she plans to take to lawmakers after the general election in November.

"I think it's something that's certainly appropriate in some death by motor vehicle cases," Berger said. "It may be appropriate in all of them."

Holmes said it's not about revenge but doing what she can "to affect positive change," something she says her parents dedicated their lives to for years.

"They were the kind of people you'd call, (for example) if you needed someone to drive you to the doctor because you were unable to go (otherwise)," she said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • AngelEyes Aug 13, 2008

    It makes sense to suspend a person's driving PRIVILEDGES until a disposition is made on the charge(s).

  • cameragirl Aug 13, 2008

    The driver is lucky that he doesn't live in Kentucky. There they give death penalty or life in prison. See the link:


  • Dr. Dataclerk Aug 13, 2008

    drivers charged with death-by-motor-vehicle to have their licenses suspended for a minimum of 30 days.

    What is 30 days going to solve? I say allow the courts to decide how to handle the person that caused the accident that killed someone.

  • hkypky Aug 7, 2008

    timbo: Sorry, I still don't follow you. I am not advocating interference with due process. I'm also not advocating that we eliminate cars, or alcohol or cigarettes for that matter, because they happen to kill people.

    I also don't believe that there are that many death-by-motor-vehicle cases where the question of guilt is so difficult to prove.

    I'm advocating two things: 1) If you kill someone in a car, then you have no business driving for a while until it gets straightened out. If not physically, then emotionally, you don't need to behind the wheel regardless of guilt.

    If you are proven guilty then, sorry, but you have no business being on the road because none of us including you, the convicted, know whether you will do it again and shouldn't have to take the chance.

    I did quite well in school, thank you. Regardless, I'm not sure one's level of education has anything to do with their appreciation for life - their own or those of others. You're helping to confirm it

  • hkypky Aug 7, 2008

    mlhannan1: I'm not sure I am following you ... which concerns me since it appears you may be involved in the legal process somehow!?

    There are mighty few scenarios that I can come up with where someone kills someone else in a motor vehicle and it not be the result of an "infraction."

    There is no harm in temporarily revoking a license pending an investigation and/or the outcome of a trial. If it is found that you killed someone with or in a car and it was because of an "infraction" then, I'm sorry, but losing your license for a year just don't cut it in my book.

    You agreed with me that driving is a privilege and not a right. However, your comments sure don't seem to follow.

  • Timbo Aug 7, 2008

    "timbo: So exactly what is that bigger picture?"

    Apparently it's kinda complex, it's called due process. It's called "innocent until proven guilty". DUI's can get their license back after x number of days, so that's no argument.

    The arguments or discussion for this has been extremely emotional at times. Hysterical in some cases. I certainly understand the emotionality, but it's the same thing as the Brady Group wanting to get rid of handguns. Using a brain damaged person as a poster child for revoking our rights as Americans.

    I'm guessing the call for conviction before a trial is a product of our failed educational system.

    Again, my condolences to the family.

  • georgia Aug 7, 2008

    I do believe when there is a death by vechice, license should be immediately evoked. This is the first step of accountability for any individual. He crossed the double line and these people do not have a chance. This law needs to be changed. Georgia

  • ronnie2 Aug 6, 2008

    I say take there license away from them on the spot. If they want them back then they should have to have one of those units installed in there car where they blow into it to crank it until there court date, after that if there are not guilty then the state takes it off, but if guilty then they should never drive on a public road again.

  • oldschooltarheel Aug 6, 2008

    why no mo comments past 4:40 pm WRAL?

  • mlhannan1 Aug 6, 2008

    In order to be convicted of the crime of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, it has to be found that you are the proximate cause of the death that occurred. The underlying charge has to be an infraction i.e.- left of center. I have dealt with many of these cases and in every case it was a simple accident that occurred due to one party's negligence- i.e. speeding, left of center or over correcting. We are all guilty of this while driving, and in these cases a death occurred after the persons negligence. The most a person found guilty of this stands to lose is a one year suspension of their license. Driving is a privilege- not a right. However, revoking their license simply after the charge of the offense is not the answer. The current law punishes victim's families and defendants. Remember, theses charges usually occur after accidental deaths. More serious driving offenses, such as those involving alcohol, carry a felony charge. We are all capable of making the same driving mi