Can 24/7 Sobriety Programs Fix the DWI Problem?

The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece last Friday that, according to the headline, offered “A Simple Fix For Drunken Driving.”  I was intrigued because, frankly, I didn’t think there was one. As it turns out, the headline over-promises. The author, Stanford University psychiatry professor Keith Humphreys, does not purport to have a solution that ends impaired driving once and for all. Instead, Dr. Humphreys reports on the “stunning” results of South Dakota’s “absurdly simple” 24/7 sobriety program for repeat DWI offenders.

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Supreme Court Rules that Anonymous Tip Provides Reasonable Suspicion of Impaired Driving

The Supreme Court just decided a case that significantly changes North Carolina law regarding whether a traffic stop can be made based on an anonymous 911 call alleging bad driving. The case is Navarette v. California, 572 U.S. __ (2014). The full opinion is here. This post summarizes the ruling and considers its implications for … Read more


May Magistrates Be Compelled to Testify about Their Decision-Making Processes?

When a defendant move to dismiss DWI charges based on a violation of his pre-trial release rights, the State’s first response is predictable: Subpoena the magistrate who presided over the defendant’s initial appearance. And in case after case, our appellate courts have considered testimony from magistrates in determining whether a defendant’s rights to pretrial release … Read more


Imposing Fees for Forensic Expert Testimony — Is It Constitutional?

Tucked into the 2013 North Carolina budget bill is a provision imposing new court costs for expert witnesses who testify about chemical or forensic analyses at trial. Specifically, the new law (sec. 18B.19 of the budget bill) provides that upon conviction the trial judge must require a convicted defendant to pay $600 in costs if … Read more


Indefinite Driver’s License Revocations for DWI Convictions

What is the basis for the indefinite license revocation reflected in the driving record entry below? A. A revocation under G.S. 20-24.1 for failure to appear for a motor vehicle offense. B. A revocation under G.S. 20-24.1 for failure to pay a fine, penalty or court costs ordered by the court upon conviction of a … Read more


Special Rules for the Admission of Hospital Medical Records

Rule 45. This rule surprised me. Before I learned about it, I assumed that when a party sought to introduce hospital medical records at trial, a records custodian appeared in court to testify that the records met the requirements for the business records hearsay exception. Turns out, however, that because of this rule, custodians of … Read more


Jury Instructions for DWI

Forget all your legal training. Pretend you are a juror in a DWI case. Facts. The following facts were established at trial: The defendant was stopped at a checkpoint. The officer smelled alcohol and defendant admitted that he had consumed two glasses of wine earlier in the evening. No field sobriety tests were administered, and … Read more


Beyond Legislative Solutions to Melendez-Diaz

My recent paper (here) on the use of remote testimony in criminal cases involving forensic analysts was written in part because of the flood of interest in legislative solutions to Melendez-Diaz. That case held that forensic reports are testimonial and subject to the new Crawford confrontation clause analysis. One slam dunk solution to the Melendez-Diaz … Read more

Do Old DWIs Count toward Felony Prior Record Level?

Author’s note: This post has been updated since its initial publication. The original version overlooked G.S. 15A-1340.11(7), a statute that is clearly relevant to the discussion. Do old (as in, pre-1997) impaired driving convictions count toward felony prior record level? My answer is that they probably do—at least back to 1983—but there is no clear … Read more


State crime lab backlogs and the right to speedy trial

The state crime lab and other local laboratories perform nearly 10,000 blood toxicology analyses annually, the vast majority of them in impaired driving cases. Unlike breath analysis results, which the State has in hand before a person’s initial appearance in an impaired driving case, several months may elapse after a person’s arrest for impaired driving … Read more