Two DWI bills pass in the North Carolina House, head to Senate


Bills target DWI offenders with stiffer penalties and license restrictions

The North Carolina House has passed two bills aimed at both first-time and repeat drunk drivers, according to the News & Observer. The bills would increase current license restrictions for people convicted of their first DWI and make it easier for prosecutors to charge repeat offenders with a felony. For people facing a DWI charge, especially those facing a repeat charge, the bills could lead to much harsher penalties, including tougher driving restrictions and increased jail time. The bills are now headed to the North Carolina Senate, where past history suggests they may have some difficulty ultimately being passed into law.

Felony habitual DWI

House Bill 32, which recently passed the House 112 to 2, would make it easier for repeat DWI offenders to be charged with a felony habitual DWI. According to WRAL News, current state law defines a felony habitual DWI offense as occurring when an offender receives four DWI convictions within a ten-year period. Under the proposed bill, that threshold would be lowered to three convictions with no time constraints.

A charge of habitual DWI is a serious felony that carries with it a minimum sentence of one year in jail. Habitual offenders are also ordered to complete a substance abuse program as part of their sentence or probation. Unlike many other types of offenses, a habitual DWI offense cannot be suspended.

Zero alcohol limit

The second proposal, House Bill 31, passed the House 110 to 4. That bill would require first-time DWI offenders who are on a restricted license but have not been ordered to install an ignition interlock device to maintain a zero blood-alcohol content limit during a three-year period. Under current law, such offenders are required to maintain a blood-alcohol limit of 0.04.

While both bills received overwhelming bipartisan support in the House, their future in the Senate, where they are now headed, is less certain. Two similar bills were also passed by the House in 2013 before ultimately being rejected by the Senate. It remains to be seen whether Senate lawmakers will lend their support to the proposals during the current legislative session.

DWI defense

Laws against drunk driving in North Carolina are already strict and, as the above article shows, they could be set to get even tougher. In addition to receiving jail time, fines, and a criminal record, people convicted of DWI may also face harsh driving restrictions that can make it exceedingly difficult to maintain their livelihood and quality of life.

DWI charges need to be taken extremely seriously and anybody facing such charges should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. The right attorney can fight to protect a client’s rights and possibly help ensure that the potential harm caused by a criminal charge is successfully mitigated.

On behalf of Mark Jetton at Jetton & Meredith Law, PLLC

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