We want to take a quick break from our discussion of gambling laws and “Bones,” to talk about a couple of bills being considered by the North Carolina General Assembly. The General Assembly has a deadline of sorts today: “Crossover Day.” After April 30, many bills that have not been passed by the house of origin will die.
Granted, death is not quite as final for proposed legislation as it is for the people the legislation will affect; bills may be filed again in future sessions, or the provisions of the bills could be included as amendments in proposals that did meet the crossover deadline. Granted, too, that the deadline does not apply to all bills: Bills that assess fees, raise taxes or allocate funding (that is, spend money) are exempt. Still, bills related to criminal matters must be out of the House and into the Senate or vice versa.
Impaired driving was the target of a couple of House measures that crossed the divide in time. One bill would change the blood alcohol concentration limit for certain drivers with ignition interlock systems. Currently, the state revokes the license of a driver whose DWI conviction is based on a BAC of 0.15 or greater. When the license is restored, the driver may be required to install an ignition interlock device on his or her car. With the device, only drivers who blow a BAC below 0.04 are able to operate the car. This new provision would lower that BAC limit to 0.00. A violation would be a Class 1 misdemeanor.
The bill would also lower the 0.04 BAC limit to 0.00 for drivers after a DWI-related suspension or revocation. A violation would be a Class 3 misdemeanor.
Another bill would modify to the definition of “habitual impaired driving.” Current law, of course, states that the offense requires three or more DWIs within 10 years. If the House bill passes, the number of DWIs would be reduced to two, and a previous habitual impaired driving conviction would result in the same charge here.
These bills do not cover big-ticket criminal matters. Neither mentions the death penalty or racial bias, for example. But if they pass, more people will face stiffer penalties. And if they pass, it will be clear that that the General Assembly is open to tougher DWI laws, especially for repeat offenders.
WRAL, “After crossover, what’s next?” Mark Binker, April 30, 2015
North Carolina General Assembly, 2015 Session, House Bills 31 and 32