Local News

DWI Task Force Looks At Way Laws Applied Across N.C.

Posted August 11, 2004 4:52 a.m. EDT

— North Carolina is recognized for having some of the toughest DWI laws in the country, but apparently, those laws are not holding water in court. By some estimates, one out of three people charged with drunken driving never get convicted in the state. On Wednesday, the Governor's Task Force on DWI reacted to that information.

Late last year, a

WRAL investigation

found 70 percent of Cumberland County's DWI arrests did not end in convictions. In August, a

Charlotte Observer

investigation showed judges across the state let off more than a third of drunk driving suspects who test over the legal limit but fight the charges in court.

Sen. Tony Rand, D-Cumberland County, is very concerned the law is applied differently across of North Carolina. He is the co-chairman of a new DWI task force. The group is expected to examine the way judges rule.

"We are going to try to arrive at some sort of conclusion at what we can do and what we should do, so the public will have faith in the court system and a better understanding of what's going on there," he said.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) believes a report card on judges should be made public statewide. Leaders believes it will make those on the bench more accountable.

"If you are letting drunk drivers out in my community, are you going to vote for that judge? Absolutely not because I want my roads to be safe and everyone else does too," said Becky Blackwell, of MADD.

Members of the committee said stopping drunken drivers is not just up to judges, it is up to everyone.

"Most of us recognize the strongest enforcement is really prevention and education," Durham County District Attorney Jim Hardin said.

The DWI task force hopes to make recommendations to Gov. Mike Easley by January.