North Carolina’s courts could soon be able to restore driving privileges to individuals who had their driver’s licenses revoked due to DWI charges. Under proposed legislation passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, people with two DWI offenses within seven years could see some driving privileges restored for essential purposes and with heightened safety features. 

A judge would be able to grant limited driving privileges to an eligible person whose driver’s license was revoked because of a conviction for a specified impaired driving offense. The individual would be able to drive for certain essential purposes, including employment, education, and medical care. 

“Currently, there’s no pathway for them to get a limited driving privilege. They cannot drive at all legally. So essentially, a lot of these folks, especially in rural areas where there’s no public transit, are driving anyway,” said Sen. Danny Britt, R-Robeson.

Technological advancements would be employed to ensure the safety of the driver. Connected to the vehicle ignition system, an interlock breathalyzer system would require individuals to breathe into the machine before the vehicle would start. If the individual’s breath alcohol concentration is outside the acceptable range, the system would prevent the vehicle from starting. 

“We worked on this and discussed this with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other organizations. And again, this would be individuals who have no grossly aggravating factors and are low-level DWIs with marginal blows,” Britt added.

According to the Department of Public Safety’s alcohol and driving rules, repeat and impaired offenders are typically classified as Level I or II misdemeanors and can also have their licenses revoked. Data shows that over 26,000 individuals were sentenced for DWI convictions in fiscal year 2022, though the majority were the least serious Level 5 convictions, which does not constitute license revocation.