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North Carolina politicians take steps to increase penalties for DWI/DUI

We've previously discussed in blog posts how North Carolina has some of the toughest drunk driving laws of any state. However, if two bills that were recently introduced by North Carolina House Democrat Rep. Darren Jackson become law, the penalties for some individuals convicted of DWI/DUI will be even more punitive.

Currently individuals who are convicted of drunk driving and required to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle, must register a 0.04 or lower in order for the vehicle to start. However, if House Bill 31 becomes law that threshold will be lowered to 0.0.

Some argue that a zero threshold isn't practical as benign substances like mouthwash and even some foods may contain trace amounts of alcohol that could register on an ignition interlock device. What's more, every driver who registers even a trace amount of alcohol would be required to go before the Department of Motor Vehicles for a hearing.

The second bill, House Bill 32, would impact repeat DWI/DUI offenders. Currently, an individual who is convicted of four drunk driving charges within a 10-year time frame is subject to the state's habitual drunk driving law. If House Bill 32 becomes law, the threshold will be decreased to three convictions within a 10-year span.

A conviction under the state's habitual drunk driving law is considered a felony and carries a minimum sentence of 12 months in prison. Both bills overwhelmingly passed the House and now move to the Senate for a vote.

These bills show that there is strong bi-partisan support among state politicians for even harsher DWI/DUI penalties. We'll continue to follow and report on these bills as they make their way through the Senate.

Source: The News Observer, "NC House OKs tougher DWI laws," Colin Campbell, March 9, 2015

The Daily Reflector, "Editorial: DUI bills impractical," March 18, 2015

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