WRAL Investigates

WRAL Investigates: NC restricted licenses not always enforced

Posted June 27, 2013
Updated June 28, 2013

— On any given day, about 7,000 convicted drunken drivers are on North Carolina roads with a restricted license, meaning they can only drive during certain times of the day and for certain reasons. The WRAL Investigates team found that those restrictions may not be worth the paper they’re written on.

Of the 216 suspected violations involving restricted licenses brought before judges in North Carolina last year, 142 – or nearly 66 percent – were dismissed in court, according to the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts.

The WRAL Investigates team found that the law defining restricted license terms is vague and not always enforced.

Like many of the state’s convicted DWI offenders, Wesley Englebreth has a restricted driver's license, which allows him to drive from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. for specific reasons, such as work, education, medical care, community service and household maintenance. Court records show he can drive as late as 11 p.m. for a restaurant job, but the restaurant says he hasn't worked there in months.

Barry Howell hired a private investigator to follow Englebreth, who is dating his ex-wife. He did so after learning that Englebreth was driving around his children.

“What do my children have to do with his employment or maintenance of his household? Nothing," Howell said. “I don’t want him driving my children ... I’m horrified at what could happen."

Howell says he supplied authorities with video footage, shot by his private investigator, showing Englebreth's car at a Raleigh restaurant and strip club as late as 11 p.m., in apparent violation of restricted license laws.

The WRAL Investigates team witnessed Englebreth driving Howell's children from a pool to a restaurant earlier this month. When questioned, Englebreth said he was driving the children as part of his household maintenance duties. He declined to comment further. The children's mother – Howell's ex-wife – said she was paying Englebreth to baby-sit her children that day.

WRAL Investigates WRAL Investigates: Restricted licenses not always enforced

Raleigh defense attorney Roger Smith Jr. says Englebreth’s explanation could hold up in court, even though baby-sitting is not listed as a job on his court papers.

"It's difficult to define things sometimes," Smith said. "I certainly get questions from clients all the time on, 'What is household maintenance?' And certainly, by its nature, it is very broad. It covers going to the grocery store, going to the hardware store."

Given that Englebreth had two previous DWIs – in 1999 and 2011 – and that North Carolina has gradually toughened its DWI laws, Howell said he was surprised that police, a probation officer and the Wake County District Attorney’s Office didn't pursue a case when he brought them video footage of Englebreth.

"(I was told) that it was my responsibility the next time we saw this individual driving to call law enforcement," Howell said.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby says law enforcement doesn't have enough resources to track down every driver with license restrictions.

"It's a difficult thing. I encourage (people like Howell) to report to police so police will have info and may be able to use it," Willoughby said. "I think this stuff is much better suited for domestic court in deciding custody and support than criminal court."

Englebreth was cited in Johnston County at a daytime license checkpoint on April 9 for having a revoked license, because he didn't have his restricted license paperwork with him. A judge later dismissed the case when he went to court on May 10 and showed his paperwork, according to court records.

The WRAL Investigates team found that offenders who did get in trouble for violating driving privileges were usually pulled over for something else.

John Duke was convicted of violating his driving privileges in Alamance County, but that was after prosecutors dropped open container and drug paraphernalia charges that were filed against him last July. Sandra Allen, of Clayton, could lose her privileges after a second DWI charge in Johnston County this past February. It's a violation of limited driving privileges to drink alcohol and get behind the wheel. Her case is pending.

Howell says he thinks the driving restrictions should be tougher. Otherwise, "it's verbiage with no teeth, no monitoring, no enforcement," he said.

The WRAL Investigates team contacted Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a nonprofit organization. MADD leaders say one possible solution is installing ignition devices that control when a DWI offender starts his or her car. In Minnesota and Ohio, DWI offenders are issued special license plates.


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  • jjsmith1973 Jun 28, 2013

    Your customers must be fake* because this is part of the problem no one is educated about these things but have an opinion. Look up interlock rolling test it is simple to see how it works*

  • jjsmith1973 Jun 28, 2013

    @gravypig you say "The tests are only administered when the vehicle is stopped. Initial start up, and then again within a certain time frame from when the vehicle was started. The device instructs you to do this test roadside and to plan to pull over for the re-test." and claim i don't know the device. You are absolutly incorrect how this system works, it does what they call rolling test ever 5 to 10 minutes while driving. Your customers must be fact because this is part of the problem no one is educated about these things but have an opinion. Look up interlock rolling test it is simple to see how it works

  • Crumps Br0ther Jun 28, 2013

    How can even compare the two?

    compare what?

  • Crumps Br0ther Jun 28, 2013

    DWI suspension they should refuse the field test ( will be arrested) and assert their rights to have a third party present before blowing...p

    Great post. There is no hard sciens stating .08 is drunk. This is where goverment trumped science and went with some number, even thoough some people will blow .08 and not be impaired or even drunk. Once again just a revenue generator for the state

  • Good Bye WRAL Jun 28, 2013

    Just like other unenforceable laws and 'policies', you cannot legislate common sense. You cannot stop a criminal or person with bad intent from breaking the rules. That's why gun control laws have little effect on crime. That's why stiffer DUI laws have little effect on drunk driving. If the laws we make were simpler and basic AND the courts were stronger in handing down punishments, that might have an effect. Until the lawyers stop creating more and more lenient 'precedents' in courts, we're doomed to living with malcontents and criminals every where.

  • disgusted2010 Jun 28, 2013

    dont believe things on this blog....forte was not fired he was promoted to a new job withing DMV. maxcadman

    Oh really, then why did he take a $17,000 pay cut for a PROMOTION? One more person that ran afoul of Tony Tata.

  • ncnannystate Jun 28, 2013

    GravyPIG..the laws for DWI conviction ARE too strict , it's a two pronged law...1st field test, then blow with the swing vote being .08...any Wake county lawyer will tell u..just because you blow under .08 , does not mean no conviction...the cop will testify in court on his/her opinion of how u did on the field test, based on quasi science, they make u do absurd things like extend both arms by your side and extend your toe out as far and high as you can ...and hold it. Some people cant do that when they havent had a drop. MADD is so happy that Wake county has high conviction rate, they are crusaders in the worst sense. Also - dont ever admit to the cop you take lexapro or any other anxiety drug....they will talk about their experience in Drug classes and that those class of drugs intensifys the effect of alcohol. If a citizen is every stopped for DWI suspension they should refuse the field test ( will be arrested) and assert their rights to have a third party present before blowing...p

  • maxcadman Jun 28, 2013

    dont believe things on this blog....forte was not fired he was promoted to a new job withing DMV

  • Big5Fan Jun 28, 2013

    Is there proof that Englebreth was driving the car at night? You have obviously used Mr. Howell's PI for footage to support your story. It seems more like a smear campaign toward Englebreth.

  • Road-wearier Jun 28, 2013

    "I would like to see our laws so severe............that fools would quit driving after drinking. "

    Nah. They're fools, remember? Overseas DUI laws are positively draconian - they still have drunk drivers. You're thinking that people will be rational and weigh the risk of getting caught vs driving...but they're drunk, remember? And being drunk has never made anybody much smarter or rational. They'd have to drink less and that's not going to happen.