Early Tuesday morning, Mount Holly Police arrested 24 year old Tracy Ellett who had her 2 and 5 year old children in the car, for Driving While Impaired. Ellett failed a field sobriety test and was found to have bloodshot eyes, was unsteady on her feet, and had an odor of alcohol. Ellett, however, refused to take a breathalyzer test. Shortly thereafter, a court order was issued authorizing a forced blood sample to determine Ellett’s level of intoxication. Ellett has subsequently been charged with 2 counts of Contributing to the Deliquency of a Minor, and is being held on $20,000 bond.
The next day, another mother, Kalie Leann Nickels, also known as Trista Ann Nickels, was arrested for Driving While Impaired, and her 2 year old child was in the car. Taylorsville Police pulled Nickels over after receiving reports of a pickup truck almost hitting a school bus head-on. During the traffic stop, the officer noticed that the 2 year olds car seat was not properly installed. When the officer attempted to properly position the car seat, he discovered a large bottle containing 83 Dilaudid pills, and another large bottle containing 27 Xanax pills. Nickels 2 year old child is in the custody of the Department of Social Services, and Nickels, who was wanted by the US Marshal’s Service in Florida on indictments for Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, has also been charged with Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance and Possession of a Schedule IV Controlled Substance. She is being held on $5,000 bond.
In effort to take a tougher stand against DWI offenders, North Carolina Senate Bill 86, also known as “Laura’s Law,” has passed the Senate and is waiting approval by the Judiciary Committee. Laura’s Law provides for stiffer penalties following a DWI conviction when certain aggravating circumstances are found, one of those factors being “Driving by the defendant while a child under the age of 16 years was in the vehicle at the time of the offense.”
Our experienced car accident lawyers have repeatedly written that Laura’s Law does not go far enough to punish DWI offenders. We have written several times about New York’s “Leandra’s Law” which provides far stiffer penalties than Laura’s Law.
Leandra’s Law, also known as the Child Passenger Protection Act, was named for 11 year-old Leandra Rosado, a passenger in a vehicle operated by a drunk family friend, who was killed in a serious crash. The driver of that vehicle, Carmen Huertas, was sentenced to 4 to 12 years in prison.Leandra’s Law requires all drivers, regardless of the classification of DWI charge, to install, at their own expense, an ignition interlock device. In addition, anyone who had a child under the age of 16 years in the car at the time of the offense will be charged with a felony, punishable by up to 4 years in prison. If the drunk driver causes serious injury to the child passenger, the punishment goes up to 15 years in prison, and up to 25 years if they cause the death of a child passenger.
Is Leandra’s Law working? YES! According to New York’s Division of Criminal Justice, 70% of drivers convicted under the law were convicted of felonies, and more than 40% did at least some jail time. North Carolina’s Laura’ Law is long overdue, but just does not go far enough to punish drunk drivers.