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Tag: North Carolina

north-carolina-dram-shop-law

Last September a Chevrolet driven by a man named Robert Kite flew off an elevated highway ramp onto the road about 300 feet below. Robert Kite, a father of six, was killed instantly. Since his blood alcohol level was 3 times the legal limit, the North Carolina ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) Commission looked into the situation. It turned out he had ordered 17 shots of bourbon in the 4 hours before driving.

The bar where Kite did his drinking, the Wild Wing Café in Aynsley, had offered to pay a $1,000 fine. The ABC Commission rejected the settlement in light of the revelation that the bar had served Kite 17 shots.

The bar claims that Kite did not drink all 17 shots of Maker’s Mark bourbon – they were just on the bill together. But the ABC notes that no one else was drinking that brand of liquor.

North Carolina Dram Shop Laws

Dram shop law is the term used for laws which determine a commercial establishment’s liability when someone drinks and causes harm. North Carolina is among the US states which have a dram shop law. The law prohibits the saleIt states that it is unlawful to sell alcohol to an intoxicated person. North Carolina laws allow a bar to be held liable if it serves alcohol to a customer who is visibly intoxicated and who then injured or kills someone in a collision.

According to North Carolina dram shop laws, then, the onus is on the server This opens up another question: to what lengths should a server go to in order to ensure that a customer is not drunk?

The $1,000 settlement will not fly, so the ABC will try to negotiate another one with Wild Wing Café, and this one will involve a higher penalty. How high can and should that penalty go?

couple-riding-dwi-on-a-moped

A lot of people are riding mopeds in North Carolina because they have DWIs. Since no license or insurance is required to drive a moped in the state, the scooters are a logical means of transport for someone who’s lost his or her driver’s license. The last thing you’re thinking about is the possibility of a DWI on a moped.

But it’s very possible. Just because you need no license to pilot a moped, that doesn’t mean you can drunk-drive it with impunity. A Raleigh man found this out recently.

The man was riding his moped when he fell and injured himself. Police arrived and charged him with a DWI.

No License Doesn’t Mean Drunk Driving is OK

Even though you don’t need a driver’s license to operate a moped in North Carolina, the state’s impaired driving laws still apply. License or not, a moped is considered a motor vehicle according to the statutes.

What Keeps People From Driving Drunk? Interlocks!

Substituting a moped for a car was one man’s method of dealing with license suspension. The sad fact is that most people deal with license suspension by ignoring it and driving their regular vehicles. Statistics tell us that half to three quarters of suspended drivers get behind the wheel at some point. Those that tend to drive while impaired will do so, valid license or not.

That’s why the ignition interlock was invented. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. Currently 30 states mandate the devices for all drunk driving offenses, and some require the interlock from the time of arrest – not after conviction. That ensures that the offender will not be drinking and driving.

A DWI on a moped is no joke – fines, imprisonment and other penalties apply. Remember that in cases like this, it’s a repeat DWI offense. Everyone in this case would have been better off if the offender had been in his regular vehicle with an ignition interlock instead. No other measure (apart from imprisonment, which is extreme and also costly to the taxpayer) ensures that a driver will be sober while he or she is behind the wheel. North Carolina should mandate ignition interlocks for all offenders, as 30 other states already do.

alcohol-bad-judgment

Maybe she thought it was dark, so she could get away. It’s hard to know what’s on some people’s minds when they’re intoxicated.

Not long ago a woman crashed into a power pole in Burlington, North Carolina at about 3 in the morning. The crash knocked out power in the intersection.

Sensing that she was in trouble, the driver reportedly left the scene and hid not too far away. The police arrived, looked up the owner of the vehicle, and then searched the area until they found her. She was booked for DWI as well as hit-and-run.

The question is, why would someone flee a crash scene and leave her truck, to be identified by the police? Absolutely nothing is gained by that move, and of course, the charges are compounded by the fleeing.

Judgment – You Notice When It’s Not There

The answer is in the power of alcohol to cloud judgment. Judgment comes into play in many areas of driving:

  • How fast to drive under given road conditions. This includes how much to slow down in areas where pedestrians might pop out, such as school zones and near parks
  • How much time one has to make a left turn against traffic when an oncoming vehicle approaches
  • How much distance should be left between one’s vehicle and the one in front

All of these judgments can spell the difference between a safe trip and one that ends in a collision – or worse. It’s safe to say that someone who judges that it’s a good idea to flee a crash scene is not capable of making good driving decisions. Bad judgment is one of the reasons the charge of DWI exists.

Often people who think they are “okay to drive” are considering their physical coordination after a drink or two. They’re not considering their judgment, which the alcohol would have rendered less effective. And that’s the Catch-22 of alcohol – it robs you of the ability to understand what it’s robbing you of.

nc-drunk-driving-laws

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is tireless in its efforts to get states’ drunk driving laws to conform to the highest standards of effectiveness. Recently the organization released its 2018 Report to the Nation, which rates US states on their anti-impaired driving efforts. According to MADD North Carolina is far from the worst, but there’s some work to be done.

First, the good news: North Carolina has a good system of sobriety checkpoints in place. MADD approves of them as a way of nabbing drunk drivers. The state also criminalizes the refusal of a sobriety test – another measure which takes drunk drivers off the roads.

As to the areas in which North Carolina needs to improve, here is MADD’s prescription:

  • All-offender ignition interlock law. North Carolina needs to mandate the devices, which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking, for all drunk driving offenses, and not just repeat and high blood-alcohol offenses.
  • Compliance-based removing of interlocks. Ignition interlock devices should only be remove when the offender has passed a given number of months (usually four) with no failed tests.
  • Ignition interlocks available upon arrest.
  • Felony charge for child endangerment. North Carolina does prosecute drivers who drive drunk with a child, but it’s a misdemeanor charge. According to MADD, it should be a felony, as it is in a number of states.

The recommendations that MADD has made – not just for North Carolina, but for every state – are the result of a lot of study into what measures work to reduce the number of alcohol-related road fatalities. The general trend is toward the adoption of these laws. We hope North Carolina takes MADD’s recommendation seriously and steps up its anti-DWI game soon.

man-walks-into-dwi-arrest

Sometimes police spot drunk drivers on the road. Sometimes they stake out bars and taverns and wait for patrons to stagger into a DWI arrest. Sometimes they get called to a crash, and the driver turns out to be drunk. And of course, police in states like North Carolina man checkpoints to catch drunk drivers there.

But sometimes a drunk driver just delivers himself to the cops.

A group of Johnston County state troopers were holding their monthly meeting at a fire station when a man named Chad William Johnson walked in to drop off a job application. He immediately started shaking the troopers’ hands and thanking them for his service.

The cops notice the odor of alcohol, so one of the troopers gave Johnson a breathalyzer test, which he failed. In fact, he registered .18 BAC, more than twice the legal limit for intoxication. Since he had driven to the fire station, he was arrested for DWI and released on bond.

Was that fair? Absolutely. A driver who doesn’t notice a dozen or more patrol cars in a fire station parking lot is obviously not equipped to notice pedestrians or other unexpected road obstacles. And anyone who would drop off a job application in that condition is obviously not in possession of good judgment – another requirement for safe driving.

Most impaired drivers give cops more of a run for their money before they are caught. A good many cause damage, injury, even death, so all in all it’s fortunate that this driver was caught and taken off the road before anything happened.

And since the offender’s blood alcohol concentration was above .15, he should be getting an ignition interlock device in his vehicle, which will prevent him from starting the engine if he drinks.

No word yet as to whether he got the job.

jail-for-dwi

A glitch in North Carolina’s penal system is short-changing the state’s efforts to reform drunk drivers.

An article in The Marshall Project tells the story of North Carolina DWI offenders who are serving time – years – in jails that are meant for short-term stays. As a result, these offenders have no access to the facilities that prisons offer: drug and alcohol treatment, job training, and education.

Jail For DWI: How Good Intentions Fail

These offenders are in jails because North Carolina decided to reduce the state’s prison population in 2011 with the Justice Reinvestment Act. Misdemeanor offenders, including DWI offenders, were sent to jails instead of state prisons. At the same time, the state was getting tougher on drunk drivers, imposing mandatory sentences on certain DWI offenses. Both these moves had good intentions: the first was designed to reduce state spending and divert funds directly into communities. The second was to reduce drunk driving by getting tough on serious offenders.

There was a problem: as a result of these two moves, repeat DWI offenders, people with alcohol problems and other substance issues, are being sent to local jails where they get no treatment. When they are released, the chances are they will drive drunk again.

What Works: Sobriety Court Plus Ignition Interlocks

The most effective system for dealing with DWI offenders is the sobriety court/ignition interlock combination, which has been praised for the success this method has found in, for example, Michigan:

  • Offenders receive direct supervision by an officer who ensures that all aspects of the program are being followed.
  • Offenders go to regular treatment sessions and the results are shared with officers.
  • The court ensures that an ignition interlock – a device which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking – is installed on the offender’s vehicle. In non-supervised settings, a large percentage of offenders don’t comply with the interlock order.
  • The interlock ensures that an offender retains driving privileges, and can therefore get to treatment.
  • The expense of incarceration is avoided.
  • Offenders can maintain or improve their employment situation, which would not be possible without the interlock and supervision.

Naturally, jail for DWI is sometimes called for. But in cases of long-term imprisonment, offenders must have access to treatment for the issues which caused them to be there. Making people sit in a local jail, without treatment, proper exercise facilities, or opportunities for education or self-betterment, is no way to improve a social ill.

You can’t imprison your way out of an alcohol problem. Better solutions are out there, at least for some of the offenders who are now in North Carolina’s jails.

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