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North Carolina Laura's Law increases DWI penalties

There is a law in North Carolina known as "Laura's Law" that increased the possible legal ramifications in some cases of driving while impaired. Enacted in 2011, the law was named after a teenager who was killed in an accident by a driver who was impaired. That driver had previously been convicted of DWI.

Under Laura's Law, convicted drivers with prior DWIs will have a longer alcohol monitoring period if given probation if a jail sentence is avoided.

Level One sentences are the most severe. They carry prison terms of up to two years and fines of $4,000. This sentencing classification is used when two or more grossly-aggravating factors occurred during the incident.

Judges are mandated to sentence defendants to Aggravated Level One corrections when there are a minimum of three grossly-aggravating factors involved. These A1 DWI sentences have minimum terms of one to three years behind bars. Fines can be as high as $10,000. Defendants with these sentences are ineligible for parole.

However, they must be released four months before the "maximum imposed term of imprisonment" ends and be monitored with post-release supervision. This supervision includes a requirement to abstain from any alcohol use during this period. This is verified by an ankle bracelet that detects any signs of alcohol in their system.

Defendants who prove unable to comply with these requirements can have their supervision revoked. Prison terms for Level A1 DWIs can only be suspended if conditions of special probation are imposed that require a minimum 120-day jail term to be served.

Level A1 defendants who are granted probationary status are required to abstain from alcohol for the same 120-day period noted above and will have a continuous alcohol monitoring system imposed. The judge must also order the defendant to be assessed for substance abuse. Pending the results, he or she may be ordered into treatment.

DWI crimes are taken seriously by the state. That's why it's important to have a North Carolina criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights as you go through the judicial system.

Source: UNC School of Government, "North Carolina Criminal Law" Shea Denning, Dec. 21, 2014

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