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North Carolina considers two drunk driving bills

North Carolina is currently considering a couple bills to address drunk driving issues. The first bill would require interlock devices to be installed in the cars of persons convicted of driving while intoxicated. An interlock device acts like a breathalyzer and tests the driver's blood-alcohol content as a precursor to starting the engine of the car. The state currently requires the interlock for drivers with numerous DWI charges and convictions or first-time offenders who are caught with an exceptionally high blood-alcohol content (BAC), over twice the legal limit.

If the interlock law is passed, then the state will join a group of 14 other states that install the devices for first-time drunk driving convictions.

The second bill being discussed changes the handling of habitual DWI offenders. There is currently a loophole in state law that allows a repeat offense to be treated as if it's a first-time offense. The law as it stands now requires four drunk driving convictions within a 10-year span in order to meet the requirements of a habitual offender. The new law would maintain the four charges in 10 year standard but a court could determine a person a habitual offender if they had a previous habitual conviction, no matter the time frame.

The interlock bill is on hold as legislators try to determine the associated costs. It has 10 co-sponsors and support on both sides of the aisle. The second bill has 22 sponsors and bipartisan support as well.

Drivers with previous drunk driving convictions should pay close attention to this proposed legislation. The typical penalties for a first-time DWI offense are severe but aggravating circumstances can exponentially increase the penalties. Examples of aggravating circumstances include multiple convictions or repeat offenses, extremely high BAC, driving with minors in the car or travelling at excessive speeds.

Drunk driving isn't okay the first time, much less a second or third. Those charged with any type of drunk driving offense need to be mindful of the potential consequences, including loss of life, prison sentences and large fines. Drivers should work with a good defense attorney to minimize these consequences and put an end to the occurrence of drunk driving.

Source: Winston-Salem Journal, "Bill proposes ignition devices for all DWIs," Travis Fain, Feb. 13, 2013

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