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Cracking Down On Habitual DWI Offenders

House lawmakers have passed a bill that would change the way habitual DWI status is determined.

Right now, a driver must be convicted of four DWIs within a ten-year period before being classified as a habitual offender. But that status expires after a decade of no offenses. Republican Representative Edgar Starnes says the measure seeks to change that.

"This is an excellent bill. Drunk driving is a serious problem in this state. Now in the last session, we revisited the issue of habitual drunk driving, and we made some changes, and this was a loophole that was created inadvertently, we're trying to tighten the law up," says Starnes.

House Bill 31 would give district attorneys the option to indict a person driving under the influence as a habitual DWI offender, even after ten years of having a clean record.

The bill was inspired by a man who was allowed back on the road after a jail sentence of more than a decade, and then was charged with another DWI. The measure passed with bipartisan support and now goes to the Senate.

Jessica Jones covers both the legislature in Raleigh and politics across the state. Before her current assignment, Jessica was given the responsibility to open up WUNC's first Greensboro Bureau at the Triad Stage in 2009. She's a seasoned public radio reporter who's covered everything from education to immigration, and she's a regular contributor to NPR's news programs. Jessica started her career in journalism in Egypt, where she freelanced for international print and radio outlets. After stints in Washington, D.C. with Voice of America and NPR, Jessica joined the staff of WUNC in 1999. She is a graduate of Yale University.
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