Our View: Toughen state’s DWI laws
Rep. Pat Hurley of Randolph County is not the most conservative Republican in the N.C. House of Representatives, and Rep. Marcus Brandon of High Point is not the most liberal Democrat in the House. So we’re not talking about political polar opposites, here.
But when those two area members of the General Assembly join together as primary sponsors of legislation to toughen the state’s impaired driving laws, you’ve got to figure they are up to something good.
So it is with House Bill 31. The legislation would trigger tougher penalties for someone who has been convicted of habitual impaired driving and then — in forever — receives another DWI conviction. The Hurley/Brandon bill (also sponsored by Rep. Allen McNeill, the second-term Republican who also represents part of Randolph County) would fix what many would call a loophole — a deadly loophole, in fact — in current state law.
Hurley, in promoting the bill, often refers to a Forsyth County case from sometime back in which a man was convicted of habitual DWI and sentenced to 40 years for killing three people in a wreck. The man served 17 years, got out of prison and soon thereafter was again charged with DWI. However, the man faced misdemeanor DWI charges under state law because it had been at least 10 years since his previous conviction. Of course, that 10 years elapsed while the man was in prison.
Brandon talks of just how illogical the law currently reads because it forgets previous DWI convictions. He maintains that law enforcement and the courts should be aware of and take into consideration all of a person’s previous DWI convictions when facing another such charge. Referring to that same Forsyth County case, Brandon rhetorically asks what other law prevents someone’s history of killing a family from being considered when a new charge arises.
Hurley and Brandon are on target with this legislation, as is other legislation they support that would reduce the number of DWI convictions to two before someone is guilty of habitual impaired driving. Currently, it takes three convictions before someone is determined guilty of habitual impaired driving. Both bills have passed the N.C. House and are being examined by a Senate committee.
Opponents of these two bills say they are too harsh. But Brandon, Hurley and the other supporters say DWI laws, especially where they involve habitual impaired driving, need toughening. We agree.