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Bill increases penalties for DWI deaths

Posted July 5, 2012 2:34 p.m. EDT
Updated July 14, 2012 1:20 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina legislature passed a bill on June 28 that increases the penalty for driving while intoxicated deaths to a Class D felony and implements a graduated scale of penalties. The bill is now on Gov. Bev Perdue's desk for approval.

The bill also addresses the definition of first- and second-degree murder and ups consequence for several aggravating factors, including DWI, drug-dealing and malice.

In a May 10 story on WRAL News, Sen. Buck Newton, R-Nash, was outspoken about sponsoring legislation to increase the penalties. A similar bill, Senate Bill 393, was proposed last year, but it never got out of committee.

“Good people get killed. Good people get maimed. Terrible things happen when people drink and drive,” Newton said.

Most drivers who cause a death while drunk are charged with felony death by vehicle. In rare cases, North Carolina district attorneys will charge them with second-degree murder.

However, those cases can be difficult to prove because prosecutors need to show an aggravating circumstance, such as a prior drunken driving charge, and prove malice to a jury, which can be a tough sell.