Sentence Reduction Credits and Parole for DWI Inmates

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Last April, I wrote a post touching on the sentence reduction credit rules applicable to DWI inmates. In short, DWI inmates fall under the same “good time” credit rules applicable to certain pre–Structured Sentencing inmates: one day of credit for every day served in custody without an infraction of inmate conduct rules. In other words, a well-behaved inmate can expect to have his or her sentence cut in half by good time credit. (Sound familiar? That’s the same credit rule that may or may not apply to certain life-sentenced inmates from the 1970s. We’ll soon find out if it does.)

The good time credit rule is set out in Department of Correction administrative rules enacted pursuant G.S. 148-13(b), which authorizes the Secretary of Correction to issue regulations regarding sentence deductions for inmates serving prison or jail terms for impaired driving. The Secretary’s rules, available here, must be distributed to and followed by local jail administrators under G.S. 148-13(e). The rules do not, however, apply to inmates serving split sentences for DWI; G.S. 148-13(f) exempts special probation terms from the rules’ coverage. Additionally, G.S. 20-179(p)(2) places a limit on the extent to which punishment may be ameliorated: good time credit may not reduce a DWI inmate’s sentence below the mandatory minimum period of imprisonment required for impaired driving. For example, a person sentenced to a 50 days active for a Level One DWI could receive only 20 days of good time credit, not the 25 days that would cut the sentence in half; the sentence could never dip below the 30-day mandatory minimum.

So that’s how you figure sentence reduction credits for DWI inmates. But good time credits are not the only way DWI inmates might get out of jail or prison early. DWI is the last bastion of parole.

Under G.S. 15A-1370.1, all prisoners serving sentences for impaired driving are subject to the parole-eligibility rules of Article 85 of Chapter 15A of the General Statutes. The basic rule is that a DWI inmate is eligible for parole after serving his or her minimum sentence or one-fifth the maximum penalty allowed by law for the offense, whichever is less. It’s not crystal clear what G.S. 15A-1371(a) means by the “maximum penalty allowed by law for the offense,” but the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission uses the maximum sentence for each level of offense (for example, 2 years for a Level One, 1 year for a Level Two, 6 months for a Level Three, and so on). [There’s some authority suggesting that 24 months is the theoretical maximum penalty for any DWI, see State v. Gregory, 154 N.C. App. 718 (2002) (DWI considered as a Class 1 misdemeanor for Rule 609 impeachment purposes), but the Commission’s level-specific rule seems a better fit in this context.] The parole-eligibility period is reduced by good time credits (see G.S. 15A-1371(a) and G.S. 15A-1355(c)), but in no case can the defendant be paroled before serving the mandatory minimum period of imprisonment for his or her level of DWI punishment. G.S. 20-179(p)(3). Once someone is parole eligible, the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission decides whether to parole them under criteria set out in G.S. 15A-1371(d).

An example might be helpful to illustrate the basic parole-eligibility rule. Suppose a Level One offender is sentenced to a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of 18 months. If he serves his time without infraction, he will reach his outright release (or “max-out”) date in 9 months—that’s 18 months cut in half by good time credit. He will be parole eligible after 2.4 months—that’s one-fifth of 24 months (the maximum penalty allowed for a Level One offender) cut in half by good time credit. Notice how the 6-month minimum imposed by the court in this example is essentially meaningless; one-fifth of the maximum possible penalty is less than the minimum, and so it controls parole eligibility. If the court wanted to impose a minimum with any bite, it would need to choose something between 30 days (the mandatory minimum) and 4.8 months (one-fifth the maximum authorized penalty).

That’s pretty complicated, but unfortunately it’s just the beginning. In addition to the rules already described, for DWI inmates with a maximum sentence of not less than 30 days nor as great as 18 months, parole is presumptive after the inmate completes one-third of the maximum sentence. G.S. 15A-1371(g). In other words, DOC or the jailer may, in their discretion, parole the inmate unless the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission tells them they may not for one of the reasons set out in G.S. 15A-1371(fg). (That provision does not, however, make any reference to credit reductions, which I interpret to mean none should apply.)

Another illustration would probably be helpful. Suppose a Level Two DWI inmate is sentenced to a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of 12 months (and suppose further that she serves her time without infraction). She will reach her outright release date after 6 months—that’s 12 months cut in half by good time credit. What about parole? Under the baseline parole rule discussed above, she will be parole eligible after 15 days—that’s 30 days (the minimum, which in this case is less than one-fifth the maximum) cut in half by good time credit. That means the Parole Commission could parole her after 15 days. But Additionally, because her maximum falls within the 30-day-to-18-month window, parole is presumptive for her after 2 four months—that’s one-third of the maximum, cut in half by good time credit. Unless the Parole Commission affirmatively steps in to say otherwise, DOC (or the jailer if she’s serving her time in a jail) may parole her after two four months.

The final catch—and it’s a big one—is that a defendant may not be released on parole unless he has obtained a substance abuse assessment and completed any recommended treatment or training program. G.S. 20-179(p)(3). Because it’s difficult to get that done in prison or jail, many inmates cannot be released on DWI parole. But defendants who complete their assessment and training before sentencing (which they sometimes do to qualify for the mitigating factor available under G.S. 20-179(e)(6)) may be parole eligible or presumptively parolable well in advance of their outright release date. Which brings me to my final question: are any jailers out there paroling DWI inmates?

15 comments on “Sentence Reduction Credits and Parole for DWI Inmates

  1. thanks 4 the information im going 2 elect to do my sentence 2 min 2 max on a old dwi i plead guilty to they wanted me 2 pay 5000 dollars and a tough probation officer i hope things work out good 4 me ive been sober now 4 2 half years and going 2 meetings redy 4 a normal life

  2. This gave me alot of information. What other thigs can my husband do to recieve time off his sentence? Also how much time does DART rehab actually take off your sentence?

  3. i was wrongfuly charged for dwi in 1991 and have been without a driving license every since. I am looking for information on how i can get assistment, to right this wrong. Please help!

  4. Wwelllllll that’s GREAT news for me! I’ve just been charged with DWI #5, and i thought my ass was GONE!! Penalties are way too intense on DWI’s! I think a lot more should be looked at besides your BAC such as weight, height, and even tolerance. And as for losing your license!?! Who the f is the DMV anyway! So whoever made sentencing more like old law, knew what they were doing!

    • My husband just got sentences 24 months, max. We have 4 young children n I’m 2 months pregnant. Stressed is an understatement. The judge ordered him to complete the dart program… Whenever he’s transferred to doc. He’s in county jail right now. How long does it usually take to get transferred n how much of the 24 months will he b likely to do? Any info is helpful! Thx.

      • hello my boyfriend just got the same as your husband i see that you posted this a while ago can you tell me anything you found out? was he able to get out sooner but doing any programs? i could really use some help?

  5. I downloaded the DOC Secretary’s rules regarding earned time, but the Adobe document has a read error. Could you please email me the actual document? Thanks!

  6. i have just got appealed. got gave 12 months d.o.c for my 2nd dui < 21 y.o.a .. but yea my first 1 was ona moped but already had my license revoked for dropping outta school.this one tho i was driving a car which belonged to my g/f i was eligible to get my license back at the time of my arrest now i cant get em back till 2015 but can have my hearing in 2014 i have been trying to figure out the law around my situation i am currently on pre trial for superior court. the state is n.c i would appreciate any helpfull insight … there is hope my fellow drinkers. lol. or x drinkers which i got even more love for yall

  7. my sister went to court she got a90 day for DUI andat the same time got a year for DWI to run concurrant will her time be cut in half for good behavier

  8. I got sentences 24 months in doc how much of that time will i do i got a minimum 24 months maximum 24 months how long would i do and also im on probation

  9. my dad has 6DWI’s He Got 4Years. He’s Been Incarcerated for 6months he meets parole in April of this year ( 2013 ) he’s not once gotten introuble in those 6months hes been incarcerated hes acually been like a trusty. is it most likely, get parole out?

    • What was the outcome of dad’s parole hearing? My fiancé has 4 dwi and just got 3 years. I would like an idea of when he would be released.

  10. Can you get good time of a DUI

  11. April whay was the outcome…and what level is he

  12. ugh my mom had only 3 dwi’s and no prior convictions and was sentenced to 5years… she have been gone 11 months already and just had a small review from PAROLE … what should I expect????

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