The arrival of December brought with it a new law to North Carolina. As of December 1st, Laura’s Law, named after 17 year-old Laura Fortenberry, who was killed by a three time convicted drunk driver, finally went into effect. The bill was signed into law in 2011, but lawmakers needed to clear up administrative language in the law.
The law expands the punishment and monitoring requirements for repeat drunk drivers. Convicted repeat offenders now face a mandatory prison sentence of one to three years without parole and fines of up to $10,000. The last four months of the offender’s sentence will be under supervised release with an ankle monitor that measures alcohol levels through the skin.
In an interview with CBS, Steve Parker, a regional manager for the company that makes the alcohol monitoring systems, addressed the extended monitoring time offenders now face. “This level of monitoring not only helps court increase community safety from the highest-risk drivers on the road, it also can help individuals who are struggling with addiction to change course and even exit the revolving door of the criminal justice system,” he said.
The North Carolina Injury Lawyer Perspective:
Laura Fortenberry’s last words to her mother came in a text message: “I love you.” The teenager was driving home to babysit her siblings when the 28 year-old drunk driver, who would later plead guilty to second degree murder for her death, drove his Jeep over the center line on Dallas-Cherryville Highway and smashed into her car.
When the defendant was sentenced to 21 to 28 years imprisonment, Laura’s mother issued this statement, “Nothing's going to replace the fact that he took my child. There's no replacement for life so I wouldn't have been satisfied if they gave him life in prison; it still wasn't going to bring my child back.”
Our hearts go out to Laura's family, and all the families who suffer such tragic losses. Her family took this a step further and got involved in changing the law to help everyone driving on the Carolina highways be free of the pain and suffering of injury or wrongful death at the hand of repeat offender drunk drivers. We have represented injury clients who likewise suffered serious injuries, in several car accidents where drunk drivers crossed the center line into oncoming cars. When a drunk driving defendant is found criminally liable in a car crash causing death or injuries, the victim's family also has a civil remedy as well to seek damages in the civil justice system for the pain and loss they have suffered. But the bottom line is this: kudos to Laura’s family for taking action to make a positive change.
Dallas-Cherryville Highway, Dallas, NC