The recent death of a Gaston County teenager, Laura Fortenberry, age 17, should lead North Carolina lawmakers to change the current law regarding how long a convicted drunk driver must wear an ankle alcohol monitoring bracelet.
Last Sunday night, on the Dallas-Cherryville Highway around 9 p.m., a habitual drunk driver, Howard Pasour, 28, of Bessemer City, tried passing several vehicles on the two lane road. While making the passing maneuver, the drunk driver crashed head-on into the vehicle in which Ms. Fortenberry was riding as a passenger. Ms. Fortenberry was killed in the crash.
The drunk driver has three previous convictions for drunk driving. His last conviction for DWI was last year in 2009. When he got his driver's license back this time in November, 2009, a judge ordered that he wear a continuous alcohol monitoring bracelet so that authorities could keep track of his whereabouts and make sure that he was not driving drunk. So where was the monitoring bracelet?
Unfortunately, the current state law on continuous alcohol monitoring bracelets only allows judges to order drunk drivers to wear the bracelets for a maximum of 60 days. Drunk drivers who are ordered to wear the ankle alcohol monitoring bracelet must also pay for the cost of monitoring. Lawmakers justified this short time limit because of a concern that poor drunk drivers would not have enough money to pay for the monitoring costs. Is that not the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard? Why would lawmakers have sympathy for habitual drunk drivers? This author thinks that if the drunk drivers can not afford to pay for the costs of monitoring, then they should simply lose their conditional right to drive.
Following the crash, authorities charged the drunk driver with second degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon and several related crimes. He is currently being held in the Gaston County Jail on a $4 Million Dollar bond. His likely conviction arising out of this crash should keep him in jail for a long time. Hopefully, the judge who sentences him will give him the maximum time allowed by law.
At Davis Law Group, we have experience helping clients successfully change the law so that similar wrongs did not befall other North Carolina citizens. One such law is known as the Kelly Crabtree bill. Ms. Crabtree was seriously injured in a crash with a DOT dump truck in rural western North Carolina, and her case against North Carolina DOT helped convince lawmakers to increase the amount of money that an injured person could recover in a lawsuit against the State of North Carolina.
Ms. Fortenberry's mother, Michelle Armstrong, says her daughter did not die in vain. Lawmakers should take notice.
"We're gonna change laws so these drunk drivers don't kill other people's children, mothers, fathers, siblings," Armstrong said. "It's just not right, lets change the judicial system, lets change it today." With this type of attitude, the law will be changed. It is only a matter of time. Stay tuned for updates.