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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Changes to the DWI Law - Interlockapocalypse

So, as I try and keep up with proposed changes to North Carolina Criminal and Traffic laws, we are seeing some interesting changes coming up that could be another burden to those facing the daunting effects of a DWI conviction.  One of the biggest changes being proposed is requiring an Interlock Device for anyone convicted of a DWI, regardless of their Breath/Alcohol Concentration.

Let me explain, as it stands right now, anyone facing a DWI conviction who's BAC is a .14 or below does not have to have an Interlock Device installed on their vehicle as a part of their sentence.  Those convicted with a .15 or above BAC are required to have one installed for one year.  The changes being proposed would require the Interlock for all Impaired Offense charges (DWI and Driving After Consuming - the 'Baby DWI') regardless of your BAC, your history, or facts, etc. 

You would think something as drastic as the headache of an Interlock Device for a year would be something maybe left to the discretion of the Judge.  However, like most everything else regarding North Carolina Driving While Impaired charges, the Legislator has taken all deference out of the hands of the Judge and limited them to sentence according to very specific structured sentencing. 

So, what's the big deal, you might ask.  Interlocks seems like a sensible requirement for someone convicted of DUI.  First, Interlocks are expensive, there is initial installation costs, monthly maintenance costs, and then any problems with the device requires paying for appointments to have the machines checked.  On top of that, a part of the new changes to the laws being proposed would be an 'administrative fee' of up to $150 at the time of the installation.  This 'Administrative Fee' is given to the State, so you can see the incentive driving this push for every DWI conviction to require an Interlock Device installed.

On top of the financial burdens, the reasoning by which the proponents of this change are arguing its necessity (because saying "it will make the State more money" doesn't make a good sound bite) is the deaths caused by DWI's in North Carolina.  The problem with this argument is the Interlock device does, in my humble opinion, almost nothing to address the motor vehicle deaths occurring in NC as a result of DWI's; let me explain.  First, the Interlock Device is only required for a one year period after the DWI conviction.  This typically occurs immediately after the conviction, therefore the Interlock Device is only stopping someone from driving with alcohol in their system within one year from the date they were convicted of a DWI.  I can tell you that most of my DWI clients would rather cut off their right hand then deal with the headaches that come with a DWI, even without an Interlock Device requirement.  Even though most people convicted of a DWI are never repeat offenders, those that are, rarely repeat within one year of their conviction.

Second, if this is to serve as a deterrent to those who may Driving Under the Influence in North Carolina, understand there are PLENTY of other consequences that should already be deterrent enough.  A DWI conviction in North Carolina will cost a driver no less then $500-$1000 out of pocket; not including attorney's fees (my cost for a low-level DWI is $1800) or insurance costs (they can go up by 400% for three years).  Add to that an initial 30 day suspension period for the charge, a one year suspension for conviction, Substance Abuse Assessment and the headache of a Limited Driving Privilege, and you'll see how quickly it all adds up.  Finally, understand that there are two circumstances under which a first time DWI offender could face jail time, regardless of their record.  With all of that, people still drive drunk; the addition of the Interlock Device is not much more of a deterrent then what we already have.  The fact is, it is not that we need more punishment on the books, it's that we need more education to the public. 

So, be on the look out, cause this will likely pass.