DWI Bills That Made the (First) Cut

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Last week was crossover deadline at the General Assembly–a major event for lawmakers, legislative staffers, lobbyists and policy wonks. If you don’t fall into any of these categories, the deadline may not have greatly affected your work week. But because crossover marks (at least theoretically) the deadline by which non-revenue bills must pass one chamber of the legislature in order to be considered by the other during the remainder of the session, it is a good time to take stock of pending legislation. A complete listing of bills that met crossover is available here. Several of these bills would significantly amend laws related to impaired driving.

H 31. 0.00 Alcohol Restriction—All DWI. As the short title suggests, this bill amends G.S. 20-19(c3)(1) to require the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles to impose a 0.00 alcohol concentration restriction on the driver’s license of any person whose license is restored following a conviction for impaired driving under G.S. 20-138.1 or a similar offense in another state. A first-time offender currently may have his or her license restored with a restriction prohibiting the person from driving with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater. H 31 also amends the ignition interlock statute, G.S. 20-17.8(b), to require that any person whose license is restored subject to an ignition interlock restriction be prohibited from driving with an alcohol concentration of greater than 0.00. Under current law, a person required to have ignition interlock because of an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more, and not because of a previous conviction, is subject to a restriction that he or she not drive with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater. The bill applies to offenses committed on or after July 1, 2016. A similar bill, S 308, was introduced in the Senate.

H 32. Amend Habitual DWI. This bill amends G.S. 20-138.5 to provide that a person commits the offense of habitual impaired driving if he or she drives while impaired and has been convicted of two or more impaired driving offenses within ten years of the date of the offense. Current G.S. 20-138.5 requires that a person have been convicted of three impaired driving offenses within ten years in order to commit the offense of habitual impaired driving by again driving while impaired. If enacted, H 32 will be effective for offenses committed on or after December 1, 2015.

H 173. Omnibus Criminal Law Bill. In addition to amending numerous other criminal law provisions, this bill rewrites G.S. 20-38.7(c), which currently provides that the sentence imposed by a district court in an implied consent case is vacated upon the defendant’s giving notice of appeal to superior court. Thus, under current law, a new sentencing hearing must be held any time an implied consent case is remanded from superior court to district court. The bill eliminates from G.S. 20-38.7(c) the language vacating the sentence immediately upon the defendant’s giving notice of appeal. It instead provides that when an appeal is withdrawn or a case is remanded back to district court, the sentence is vacated and the district court must hold a new sentencing hearing and consider any new convictions unless (1) the defendant withdraws his or her appeal before the case has been calendared in superior court and the prosecutor certifies to the clerk in writing that there are no new sentencing factors, or (2) the defendant withdraws his or her appeal after the case is calendared in superior court, the case is remanded by order of the court, and the prosecutor certifies to the clerk in writing that he or she consents to the withdrawal and has no new sentencing factors to offer the court.

H 357. Toxicology Reports/District Court. Is it Thursday yet? Because this is a throwback to 2009. This bill undoes the district court notice and demand procedures enacted by the General Assembly following the Supreme Court’s opinion in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. 305 (2009). It enacts new G.S. 8-58.21, which provides that a toxicology report that is signed and sworn to by the person performing the analysis is admissible in district court without the testimony of the analyst. For the report to be admitted, the district attorney must satisfy certain criteria, including serving notice of the report and his or her intent to introduce it on the defendant or his or her attorney. The bill provides that the new provisions, effective for trials commencing on or after October 1, 2015, shall not “be construed as an abrogation of any State or federal constitutional or statutory right otherwise applicable in criminal cases with the exception of the right to a jury trial in district court.” If the bill passes, the courts will have the last word on that matter.

H 924. Highway Safety/Salary Changes. G.S. 20-139.1(b5) currently requires that a law enforcement officer who has initiated chemical testing of a person charged with a death or serious injury by vehicle offense under G.S. 20-141.4 request that the person provide a blood sample for analysis. This bill amends G.S. 20-139.1(b5), effective for offenses committed on or after December 1, 2015, to clarify that this requirement applies only within a relevant time after the driving. “Relevant Time after the Driving” is defined in G.S. 20-4.01(33a) as “any time after the driving in which the driver still has in his body alcohol consumed before or during the driving.” This bill makes several other changes to motor vehicle laws that are unrelated to impaired driving.

Anything else in the list of crossover bills grab your interest? Let us know, and we’ll consider blogging about it.

4 comments on “DWI Bills That Made the (First) Cut

  1. So they are going to again strengthen penalties for DWIs, yet no provisions for better public transportation in a state where you have to drive EVERYWHERE? I foresee many more convicted felons via habitual DWIs.

  2. I do not understand the lowering of the concentration bac restriction for restored license drivers from .04 to .00. Is there some kind of data out there that shows people are driving dangerously w/ BAC’s b/w .04 and .00 after having done their assessment and treatment to get their licenses back after their first DWI? Sometimes it really does seem like they just sit around and make stuff up..

    Then they look at undoing notice and demand statute for tox reports (which I believe Should be undone) and make it Worse by saying, oh, we don’t care what the US Supreme Ct says about your 6th Am rights to confront witnesses against you. Everyone, especially the GA, tends to forget from time to time, we have a right to a jury trial – just because NC has us go through District court “judge” trials first does not mean they get to create their own lesser set of constitutional rights for said trials. The irony is that the political makeup of our current GA specifically stands for the folks who are supposed to be extra carefully checking on government power over the individual and the passage of laws that abrogate the individuals rights under the Constitution. This is clearly not what they are interested in at all (except guns, maybe)… mind-blowing.

  3. If a person is on the Priv/interlock of a conviction of .15 or higher and rec a second dwi charge w/i 7 years,,,, (1),is he auto rev w/o being conv?,,, and (two), can he obtain a pre-trl driv priv on the subject second dwi charge???

  4. I think I just ans’d by question— under the .04 restr,, his lic is taken pending trial or hearing on the p/c, therefore he cannot have the driv priv. So, the .04 or greater is treated as a dwlr-outside the driv restr….

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