Local News

New Law Cracks Down on Drunken Drivers Who Injure Others

Posted August 10, 2007 6:55 p.m. EDT
Updated August 10, 2007 10:07 p.m. EDT

— In the past, drunk drivers who caused accidents that injured people could avoid jail time in North Carolina. But not anymore, thanks to a new law.

An accused drunk driver who caused an accident in Wake County on June 30 will face the tougher law. It's some consolation for the woman he allegedly hit and victims like her.

Robin Mitchell's life is not what it was two months ago. She's restricted to a wheelchair and can't leave her room without help.

“I just want to get well. I just want to get back to the way I was,” she said.

Mitchell was hit head on while driving on Interstate 40 in June. She had 15 broken bones and spent a month in the hospital.

“A broken sternum right here, more or less fractured, and a broken jaw. And I had two broken arms,” she said, describing her injuries.

Police say the driver who hit Mitchell, 44-year-old Brian Reynolds, was drunk.

In the past, district attorneys could charge defendants in these types of cases only with a misdemeanor. A new law changed that, and now they face much more jail time.

That new law is a felony called serious injury by vehicle. It went into effect in December. Depending on a defendant's prior record, he or she could spend four years in prison.

“We believe this is going to help us in our ability to get dangerous drunks off the road,” said Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby. “We needed to do something to tighten up the laws, particularly with those people that were repeat offenders that have caused so many injuries and deaths.”

Mitchell said she's thrilled to hear about the new serious-injury law.

“I think people need to be accountable for their actions behind the wheel drinking and driving. It’s not a mistake,” she said.

Mitchell was released from the hospital two weeks ago. Doctors don't know how long she will need to be in the wheelchair, she said.

Reynolds’ next court date is Aug. 14.