Proposed changes to North Carolina DWI laws may dramatically increase punishments for Driving While Impaired offenders. Read more to learn about the proposed changes, how they may affect you, and what can be done to prevent drinking and driving.

What does the future hold for North Carolina DWI Laws?

North Carolina is known as a state that does not take Driving While Impaired offenses lightly. In fact, North Carolina currently has some of the toughest consequences for DWI offenders in the nation. In 2006, legislative changes to DWI laws in North Carolina made the consequences of being charged with Driving While Impaired even harsher by deeming the result of a chemical analysis with a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.08 or higher as sufficient evidence to prove guilt. Now, another proposed change to North Carolina Driving While Impaired laws may dramatically increase punishments for drunk driving in the state. This proposed law is called “Laura’s Law,” named for 17 year-old Laura Fortenberry, who was killed last year in Gaston County by a drunk driver.

In North Carolina, Driving While Impaired laws provide for five sentencing levels depending on a number of factors. “Laura’s Law” seeks to add a sixth level of sentencing called, “Aggravated Level One.” The new sentencing level is designed to punish repeat offenders and would apply to individuals that have three or more grossly aggravating factors in their case. If an offender is punished under this sentencing level they may have to pay a fine of up to $10,000 and serve a minimum of 120 days in jail. Under this new sentencing level, repeat offenders will also be barred from attaining parole or getting jail credit for time served in treatment facilities. Additionally, court costs for all DWI convictions, regardless of sentencing level, will go up by $100.

But will this proposed change to NC DWI laws really make our roads any safer? While it is apparent that the legislature has targeted DWI offenders, the focus is on increased penalties, more jail time, and steeper fines. Will lengthier jail sentences and increased fines solve the real issues? Where are the new alcohol rehabilitation programs? Where are the resources to help people deal with alcohol addiction? Where is the funding to educate North Carolina drivers about the dangers of alcohol abuse? How will the increased fines that are collected by the state be used? If we want people to stop drinking and driving, let’s address the drinking problem first, without merely clogging up our courtrooms and jails. Let’s focus on the how we can solve the DWI problem – how we can prevent people from drinking and driving, not how we can change the law to increase the likelihood of a conviction in court.