As part of its ongoing coverage of the John Edwards trial, The News and Observer reported today that Edwards’ lawyer cross-examined former Edwards aide Andrew Young by reading from pages of Young’s memoir “The Politician.” I’m guessing that Young’s recounting of his arrest for impaired driving in Chapter 8 of the book, fittingly titled “Men Behaving Very Badly,” wasn’t the focus of the inquiry. Nevertheless, I thought Young’s statement that “[t]he practical problems that befall anyone stupid enough to drive under the influence in North Carolina are more than enough to teach an important lesson,” and that, among those problems is that “you automatically lose your driver’s license,” which Young said “rendered [him] unable to work,” would provide a catchy introduction to a blog post about license revocations and limited privileges for impaired driving. (Andrew Young, The Politician 172 (2010)).
The “automatic” revocation to which Young refers likely was a combination of two revocations since Young reports that “[p]anicked, I refused to take a Breathalyzer test.” Id. First, a refusal to be tested would have triggered the immediate civil revocation of Young’s license at his initial appearance under G.S. 20-16.5. You can read more about those revocations, commonly referred to as CVRs, here and here. In addition to the immediate CVR, which typically endures for at least thirty days, the driver’s license of a person who willfully refuses testing is subject to a 12-month revocation imposed by DMV. See G.S. 20-16.2(d). You can read more about willful refusal revocations here. While a person whose driver’s license is revoked under G.S. 20-16.5 may, upon satisfying certain conditions receive a limited driving privilege after 10 days of revocation, see G.S. 20-16.5(p), a limited privilege may not be awarded to allow driving during the period of a 12-month willful refusal revocation until the person’s license has been revoked for at least six months and the person has finally disposed of the underlying charge, see G.S. 20-16.2(e1).
Young wrote that he had to hire an assistant to help him get around for work while his license was revoked. He doesn’t say in the book what ultimately came of the charges. But if Young was convicted of impaired driving, he was subjected to yet another revocation as G.S. 20-17(a)(2) requires DMV to revoke “forthwith” the license of any driver convicted for impaired driving under G.S. 20-138.1. For a first offense, other than one sentenced as an Aggravated Level One DWI, the period of revocation is one year. G.S. 20-19(c1). If the person has been previously convicted of an offense involving impaired driving and that offense occurred within three years of the current offense, the revocation is for four years. G.S. 20-19(d). If the person has previously been convicted of two or more offenses involving impaired driving and the most recent offense occurred within five years before the current offense or the current offense is an Aggravated Level One DWI, the revocation is permanent. G.S. 20-19(e).
A person convicted of a Level Three, Four of Five DWI whose license is revoked solely under G.S. 20-17(a)(2) or as the result of a conviction in another jurisdiction substantially similar to impaired driving under G.S. 20-138.1 may obtain a limited privilege by satisfying other conditions. See G.S. 20-179.3; see also AOC-CR-312. To qualify, the person must at the time of the offense have been validly licensed or have had a license that had been expired for less than one year, and not have within the previous seven years been convicted of an offense involving impaired driving. In addition, the person must, subsequent to the offense, not have been convicted of nor had any unresolved charge lodged against him for an offense involving impaired driving and must have obtained and filed with the court a substance abuse assessment of the type required by G.S. 20-17.6. Finally, the person must furnish proof of financial responsibility, see G.S. 20-179.3(l), and must, upon issuance of the privilege, pay a processing fee of $100, see G.S. 20-20.2.
A limited driving privilege issued pursuant to G.S. 20-179.3 may authorize driving for essential purposes related to the person’s employment, maintenance of the person’s household, the person’s education, the person’s court-ordered treatment or assessment, community service ordered as a condition of the person’s probation, and emergency medical care. If the person is not required to drive for essential work-related purposes other than during standard working hours, defined as 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday, the privilege must prohibit driving during nonstandard working hours unless the driving is for emergency medical care or is specifically authorized by the court for completion of community work assignments or substance abuse assessment, instruction, or treatment. G.S. 20-179.3(g). Any driving not related to the purposes authorized by the privilege is unlawful, even if it occurs within the times authorized by the privilege. G.S. 20-179.3(f). The holder of a limited driving privilege who violates any of its restrictions commits the offense of driving while license revoked under G.S. 20-28(a). G.S. 20-179.3(j).
Given these restrictions, it is obvious that while a limited driving privilege may mitigate the effects of a license revocation, it does not, to paraphrase Young, erase all of the practical problems that befall persons who are convicted of driving while impaired in North Carolina.