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Man's 16 DWI Convictions Raise Questions About Drunken Driving Laws

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — The arrest of a man over the weekend for driving drunk is raising questions about how North Carolina's laws deal with those convicted of driving while impaired.

Troopers arrested 54-year-old

Ezzard Pickett

over the weekend for allegedly driving erratically and sideswiping vehicles on Interstate 40 while driving drunk.

Police reports and court records show that dating back to the 1980s, the Greensboro man had 16 prior drunken driving convictions.

In 2002, Pickett was convicted as a habitual DWI offender and served 1½ years in prison. He also had his license revoked.

"He's going to be very difficult to ever prevent this from, and he's going to kill himself most likely or somebody else," said Ike Avery, who served on the Governor's DWI Task Force and helped crafted a report to toughen the state's drunken driving laws.

Avery said most of those recommendations sought to simplify the court system, increase the conviction rate, and send a message to first-time offenders. But, the recommendations did not include longer prison sentences for those convicted of driving drunk.

"It is so prohibitively expensive to do that," Avery said.

He added: "Once they reach [Pickett's] level, they are almost impossible to deal with. We need to make sure we catch them the first time and do something."

Cheryl Jones, who serves on the national board of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said longer prison sentences would not solve the problem of habitual offenders.

She said the state falls short in requiring comprehensive alcohol treatment.

Michael Eisen, who also served on the Governor's DWI Task Force, said just half of convicted drunken drivers showed up for court-ordered treatment.

"If we can get more people into treatment, we have a shot to do something," Eisen said. "But we can't do anything unless we have a chance to work with them."

Pickett is being held in the Wake County Jail, and he could face five or more years in prison if convicted as a three-time habitual drunken driver.


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