House Passes Tougher DWI Laws
The House unanimously approved several changes to North Carolina's drunk driving laws on Wednesday, with the intent of improving enforcement and conviction rates. The bill was based on many recommendations of a task force led by Governor Easley. House Bill 1048, which was sponsored by House Majority Leader Joe Hackney (D-Orange), now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Many changes are designed to ensure that judges, prosecutors and law enforcement statewide follow the same streamlined procedures in handling these cases. House members agreed to an amendment that would make any commercial driver guilty of driving while impaired if a police officer's test reveals any alcohol in the person's blood. The bill also requires keg permits and disclosure by someone who buys a keg and drives somewhere else in North Carolina; toughens punishment for felony deaths by vehicle, a charge that is used in cases where the driver is impaired; and allows a judge to require substance abuse treatment, community service, and other punishments for those under 21 who plead guilty or are found guilty of driving after consuming alcohol. The bill also now makes it a crime for those under 21 to consume alcohol and allows law enforcement officials to test underage passengers in vehicles and other locations to be tested for alcohol consumption (a change from current law).