A new law passed in honor of a 17-year-old Gaston County girl killed by a drunk driver who already had previous convictions for driving while intoxicated (DWI) toughens the penalties for subsequent DWI arrests. The law was championed by Laura Armstrong after the 2010 death of her daughter Laura and supported by North Carolina State Representative Tim Moore. In essence, it aims to discourage drunk driving by ensuring that a second or third DWI charge comes with serious consequences.
How Does “Laura’s Law” Work?
While some legal experts and advocacy groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) think that penalties for all alcohol- and drug-related driving crimes should be strengthened, this new law specifically focuses on those who reoffend. Not only are the financial consequences greater – fines are now raised up to a maximum of $10,000 for a subsequent DWI conviction – but so are the jail terms. “Laura’s Law” is designed so that if a repeat DWI offender is sentenced to 24 or 36 months in prison, he or she will actually serve that amount of time; the law removes the possibility of early release for good behavior, keeping someone who has shown a propensity to repeat his or her mistakes off the streets for as long a time as possible.
The law also includes a provision that repeat drunk drivers submit to mandatory electronic monitoring for a period of four full months, up from just 60 days under the old statute. Since it has been proven that electronic monitoring from devices like SCRAM bracelets and ignition interlock devices has a chilling effect on drunk driving, this provision could literally save some of the hundreds of lives that are lost in alcohol-related accidents on North Carolina roads each year. Alcohol monitoring technology may also assist in civil claims arising out of car accidents by showing that drunk drivers were negligently operating their vehicles.
Hopefully “Laura’s Law” will indeed make the state’s roadways safer by keeping repeat drunk drivers from climbing back behind the wheel, but only time will tell the true impact of the changed law. In the meantime, if you have been injured – or you have tragically lost a loved one – in a drunk driving-related accident, contact a skilled car accident injury attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.