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North Carolina Court Rules DWI and CDL Law Violates Double Jeopardy Laws


Double Jeopardy LawLast week, we posted an article about a Pennsylvania driver who lost his CDL for life following two DUI convictions.

A driver in North Carolina was facing a similar but lighter sentence.  However, in this driver’s case, the court was on his side.

In 1996, Bobby Lee McKenzie received his CDL.  In 2010, while driving for a logging company, he received a DWI while driving a non-commercial vehicle.  McKenzie’s blood alcohol was 0.08–  the legal limit in North Carolina.  He was charged with crossing the center line and received a DWI.

In accordance with North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles ordinance General Statute 20, McKenzie had his CDL suspended for one year.

McKenzie was relieved of his job as a driver and had to take a job as a logger for half the pay.

In August 2011, McKenzie filed a motion to have his DWI charge dismissed.

A month later, a North Carolina District Court granted McKenzie’s motion for dismissal.

Then, in March, a Superior Court judge reversed the dismissal and reinstated the DWI charge.

McKenzie filed an appeal.

“The Appeals Court reversed the Superior Court’s decision in a majority opinion penned by Judge Robert N. Hunter Jr. with Judge Ann Marie Calabria concurring. In the dissenting opinion, Judge Robert C. Hunter concluded that McKenzie’s CDL revocation didn’t constitute criminal punishment, so the DWI prosecution didn’t amount to double jeopardy,” JD News reported.

“The court found that the one-year disqualification of a CDL under this statute is so punitive it becomes a criminal punishment, subjecting the defendant to double jeopardy,” said District Attorney Ernie Lee. “The practical result of this ruling is that the defendant cannot face prosecution for the driving while impaired offense if his or her CDL is disqualified due to the pending DWI.”

According to JD News, the ruling will not affect current DWI cases, and McKenzie’s fight may be far from over.  Because the Appeals Court ruling was split, the case may now move back to the state’s Supreme Court.


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