Lawmakers take notice of double DWI case

December 30, 2011 3:22:01 PM PST
State lawmakers are now considering changes to toughen up the state's DWI laws and it started with an I-Team investigation into just how a Holly Springs man could get two DWIs in less than four hours.

Last week, Tom Carey got pulled over for driving drunk two times in less than four hours. Officials say the only reason he could get behind the wheel the second time was because of a judicial magistrate in Wake County who let him go 75 minutes after he'd blown a 0.28.

Christy Eubanks lost a loved one to a drunk driver less than three months ago. She had no idea people could be released from jail anything other than sober.

"If you are intoxicated and you're blowing way over the legal limit, there's no way you should be able to walk back out of there," said Eubanks.

Eubanks isn't alone in her surprise at the way the law works.

"I'm glad you're on top of it, Jon," said State Sen. Richard Stevens, a Republican from Wake County. "I had no clue, I had no clue. I always had the assumption that, if you're drunk, you're drunk. We don't put you back on the street."

The same was true of Reps. Grier Martin, a Democrat from Wake County, and Rick Glazier, a Democrat from Cumberland County.

"It seems to me, common sense should have suggested that they were a threat still, and should not have been released," said Martin.

But years of case law, largely built on a State Supreme Court case, State v. Knoll, almost incentivize magistrates to release DWI suspects, still drunk, so they can go gather evidence in their own defense, perhaps with an independent blood test.

"The most frustrating thing to me is when a case gets dismissed," said Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby.

Willoughby says that happens a lot. DWI suspects arguing that their rights were violated. That's something Willoughby says should change.

"I think we ought to be focused on public safety more than the individual's right," said Willoughby.

Lawmakers that spoke to ABC11 said they would strongly consider making that change.

"It's something we need to do more than just look at," said Stevens. "We need to find out what needs to be done to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Lawmakers are back for a short session in May. Technically, that session is all about the budget. However, many said this was important enough to try to get on the agenda this summer. They encourage people who feel strongly about this, one way or the other, to call their representatives and voice their opinions.

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