Can You Receive a DUI if You’re the Supervising Driver?

If you’re the supervising driver for a learner, can you get hit with a DUI? Few things are more exciting for a teenager than being given the privilege to drive a car. However, as a parent, it’s your responsibility that the learner driver is operating in a safe manner, and in many states, you need to be in the right state of mind to perform this duty.

Some may be surprised to find themselves being charged with a DUI offense if they allow their child with a driver’s permit to safely drive home if they’ve consumed too many beers or had too many glasses of wine at a dinner party. While some states find it reasonable to allow the teenager to drive home because they pose less of a threat to the safety of other motor vehicles and pedestrians, North Carolina has taken a hard stance against this behavior.

How Does North Carolina Treat an Intoxicated Supervising Driver?

In North Carolina, DUIs and DWI offenses are treated extremely seriously. If a parent or other licensed person who is sitting in the passenger seat while supervising a driver with a learner’s permit is found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they can expect severe consequences. The supervising adult may be charged with a DUI or similar offense and potentially face penalties equivalent to those had they been in the driver’s seat and been under the influence.

The Purpose of a Supervising Driver

The entire concept behind the requirement of having a supervising driver while a fledgling driver learns with a learner’s permit is so that the vehicle can be taken control of if a situation arises. If the supervising driver is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, then they won’t be able to instruct the learner, and the benefit of having an experienced driver is lost.

This is coupled with the situation that if the learner finds themselves unable to adequately operate the vehicle, the supervising driver is not in any condition to operate the car themselves.

How Did This Law Come to Pass?

In 2011, tragedy struck the Buzard family when their daughter, 8-year-old Abbagail Buzard, was fatally wounded due to a rollover crash. The circumstances behind the event showed that Abbagail’s cousin, who at the time was operating the vehicle with a learner’s permit, was driving the young girl and her intoxicated father when the accident occurred. The father was too drunk to drive to a store and took the position in the passenger seat as the supervising driver.

According to reports, the girl’s father was consuming alcohol at a family event whereby he enlisted the aid of an underaged cousin. He asked the cousin to drive himself plus four children, with Abbagail among them, to the store for more alcohol.

Before reaching their destination, the underaged driver crashed, crushing Abbagail. The father was subsequently charged with criminal negligence and spent six months in jail. As it currently stood, he couldn’t face more serious charges.

This event led to the New York state Senate passing “Abbagail’s Law.” This law was designed to punish intoxicated adults who decided to take the role of a supervisory driver with someone who only holds a learner’s

It’s worth noting that while the New York Senate has passed the law every year, it eventually has been consistently suppressed in the New York Assembly.

Despite states such as New York and California being unable to enact these laws, it’s speculated that having an intoxicated supervisory driver is preferable to having a drunk driver on the roads. Many other states have formed their own. In some instances, the supervising driver is deemed “in control of the vehicle” and must abide by all laws that govern the physical driver. Examples can include using a cell phone or sleeping as the supervising driver.

What is the Statute for Impaired Supervision?

Found in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-12.1(a), it’s been determined that it’s unlawful for a licensed driver over the age of 18 to act as a supervising driver under G.S. 20-7(l) or G.S. 20-11 while having a blood alcohol concentration over 0.08 percent or under the influence of an impairing substance.

A person that willfully disregards N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-12.1(a) is subject to the implied consent offense under G.S. 20-16.2. In plain language, this means that the supervising driver will be subject to the same rules and procedures surrounding a DUI regarding the revocation and restrictions upon their license.

If you or a loved one has been charged due to acting as a supervising driver while under the influence in Asheville or anywhere in the State of North Carolina, contact an experienced DUI attorney immediately. Our Asheville DUI defense attorneys will evaluate all the circumstances surrounding your case and help you build a solid defense to protect your future.

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