Author’s Note: Question 2 of this post and its answer have been amended to accurately reflect the state of the law before it was amended in the 2015 session.
Earlier this legislative session, the General Assembly enacted the North Carolina Drivers License Restoration Act, S.L. 2015-186, which amended the state’s driving while license revoked law and relieved certain defendants of the mandatory license revocations that historically have followed convictions for this offense. I blogged here about the particulars of the act, which recodified various violations of G.S. 20-28 and eliminated additional license revocations for certain types of DWLR convictions. Three questions about the import of the act immediately arose. Now that the technical corrections bill has become law, I have answers.
- Will DMV revoke the license of a defendant charged with violating G.S. 20-28 before December 1, 2015 but convicted on or after that date?
S.L. 2015-186 provided that it was effective December 1, 2015 for convictions on or after that date. The act further stated that “[p]rosecutions for offenses committed before the effective date of this act are not abated or affected by this act, and the statutes that would be applicable but for this act remain applicable to those prosecutions.” The Technical Corrections Act, S.L. 2015-264, rewrote the earlier act’s effective date to render it applicable to offenses committed on or after December 1, 2015. As a result, defendants charged with driving while license revoked before December 1, 2015 who are subsequently convicted of that offense will have their licenses revoked for an additional period. Only defendants charged with driving while license revoked for offenses committed December 1, 2015 or later will benefit from the new law. So, the answer to this question is yes.
- Did the act amend DWI sentencing law to include ignition interlock violations as a grossly aggravating factor that applies if a person drives while impaired and also drives while his or her license is revoked?
Yes. The Technical Corrections Act cleared this up as well. Section 38.(b) of S.L. 2015-264 amends G.S. 20-179(c)(2) to define this grossly aggravating factor as “[d]riving by the defendant at the time of the offense while his driver’s license was revoked pursuant to G.S. 20-28(a1).” Thus, driving while one’s license is revoked for impaired driving or violating an ignition interlock restriction both satisfy this grossly aggravating factor.
- Did S.L. 2015-186’s failure to substantively amend the Driving Without Reclaiming License provision (recodified as G.S. 20-28(a2)) effect a change in the DWI sentencing law?
New G.S. 20-28(a2), which continued to provide for reduced punishment for certain persons charged with driving while license revoked while subject to a civil license revocation under G.S. 20-16.5 or while revoked for failure to pay child support, referred to a person “convicted under” G.S. 20-28(a). Given that revocations under G.S. 20-16.5 are categorized in G.S. 20-28.2(a) as impaired driving revocations, one might have expected this recodified punishment section to refer to such persons as having been convicted under G.S. 20-28(a1). Because it did not, a question arose as to whether persons subject to this reduced punishment—those persons revoked under G.S. 20-16.5 solely because they had not paid the fee to end the civil license revocation—who also drove while impaired were subject to the grossly aggravating factor in G.S. 20-179(c)(2). Section 38.(a) of the Technical Corrections Act clarifies that persons who are eligible for the reduced punishment in G.S. 20-28(a2) may be convicted under G.S. 20-28(a) or (a1). And as previously noted, driving while one’s license is revoked under G.S. 20-28(a1) is a grossly aggravating factor for DWI. So, the answer to this question also is no.
If you have lingering questions about the new driving while license revoked provisions that aren’t answered in this post or its predecessor, please let me know.