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Monday, December 15, 2014

Why There are Plenty of Laws for DWI's in NC

When the topic of DWI's comes up in any social setting, a typical opinion I hear is that these individuals need to be punished severely because they risk everyone's lives.  While this statement is not wholeheartly incorrect, I believe the convictions need to be tempered. 

You see, first and foremost, it is extremely unpopular to be 'pro-DWI' and certainly that is not the position I am taking.  DWI's are serious and in some cases very dangerous matters.  So people (and unfortunately Legislators) are very reluctant to take a reasonable approach to the discussion of DWI penalties for fear as being seen as 'soft on crime.' 

On our website, you can find a run down of North Carolina DWI Sentencing, considered by many one of the most serious in America.  The penalties for even First Time Offenders and/or low Blood/Alcohol Concentrations are serious at the minimum and borderline ridiculous at the maximum.  Aside from a loss of your license for a year, court costs, fines, and some type of probationary sentence, you run the risk of a potential active sentence (i.e. jail time) all this along with a 400% increase to your insurance and the stigma that comes with a DWI conviction.  Add to this the fact that there are NO first-time offender options or programs where someone with a benign set of facts, having never been in trouble before may be able to earn the right to avoid a DWI conviction like many other States have.

Most people believe these type of penalties are necessary to deal with what could have happened on that fateful day.  The reality is, in North Carolina, we already have laws to handle those cases where people's fears are actually warranted.  North Carolina has Felony laws that pertain to accidents involving Driving While Impaired where someone else was injured or killed: Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle (Class F Felony), Felony Aggravated Serious Injury by Vehicle (Class E Felony), and Felony Death by Motor Vehicle (Class D Felony).  These laws have the potential of sentencing someone to a few months in jail up to 105 months in prison. 

My point is, we are punishing people for the crime that could have happened and not what actually happened.  Most DWI cases involve no accident, no injury, just a driver stopped for some reason that is found to be above the legal limit.  I am fully aware that these laws are written under the premise that they are to serve as a deterrent to those who may consider driving drunk, but I find that argument not fully persuasive.  True, criminal laws are part deterrent, part punishment, the deterrent part does NO good if no one is aware of them.  I can honestly say that well over 90% of my clients had no idea the severity of their actions and had they, they would not have chosen to drive home that night.  Perhaps more effort could be put into educating the public and less on punishing the unknowing public for actions that, while have the RISK of injuries to others, in most cases do no harm to anyone.

Again, I am no advocating against DWI Laws, I am simply requesting that common sense be applied to the laws.  How many of the Thousand upon Thousands of people charged with DWI's in North Carolina would jump at the opportunity to avoid a DWI Conviction upon completion of Substance Abuse Treatment, Community Service and Outreach programs?  Stand on a corner with a sign warning of the dangers, hand out pamphlets at local bars, pay a large fine that goes exclusively to a State Sponsored Designated Driver/Taxi Service?  If we truly want to reduce drunk drivers on the road, over-punishing those who commit the crime is less effective in my humble opinion then additional community out reach and education.