The competition was stiff. Over 29,000 drunk driving related charges have been levied in Mecklenburg County since 1998. According to the NC Department of Transportation, Charlotte and Wilmington ranked number one in alcohol-related traffic wrecks among large cities in North Carolina. More than a quarter of all fatal automobile crashes in Mecklenburg County involved alcohol in 2001, so the 15 drunks we're "honoring" here had to dodge both prison and death long enough to make our list.
Somehow, they managed. Between them, these 15 drivers have 116 drunken driving charges, and 63 convictions, on record. That's the bad news. The worse news is that those numbers are likely low. When state prison records are compared against records kept at the county courthouse and those kept by the state administrative office of the courts, glaring holes in our record keeping system are obvious. State prison records show drunk drivers serving prison sentences for convictions in Mecklenburg County that don't show up on our county court records.
State administrative office of the courts' computerized files -- which are based on data from Mecklenburg County -- also lack records of convictions for which local drunk drivers have served time in state prisons. With records of limited accuracy in the hands of prosecutors, it's easy to understand one of the reasons why the 15 folks listed here have had such long and treacherous careers behind the wheels of their automobiles.
So how did we pick these particular offenders? Just how does one qualify for the CL Top 15 Drunk Drivers list?
First, local drunk drivers had to have racked up a minimum of two felony habitual drunk driving charges. Before someone can be charged with habitual drunk driving, he or she has to have had at least three driving while impaired (DWI) convictions within the preceding seven years and be driving drunk for the fourth time during that period. A felony habitual drunk driving conviction carries a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in prison.
Second, to determine who the worst drunk drivers were, CL came up with a nifty point system, assigning points for each charge and conviction related to these folks' drinking-and-driving antics. (see sidebar for more details) Our analysis resulted in the list below.
Although, as we said, county criminal court records tend to be incomplete, it appears that only three of the individuals below have ever been ordered by a judge or the courts to receive more than one month of professional help for their drinking problems. Two others were ordered to attend shorter programs.
Whatever the case, the majority of our "winners" show no no signs of giving up their habits, no matter the cost of those habits to themselves -- or to other drivers.
CL's Drunk Driving Point System
Habitual Driving While Impaired
Driving While Impaired
Hit and Run
Assault on a Government Official
Reckless Driving to Endanger
Reckless Driving with Disregard For Others
Resisting a Public Officer
Driving with an Open Alcoholic Beverage
Presenting Fictitious Driver's License
Driving with License Revoked
Urinating in Public
Possession of a Stolen Motor Vehicle