Family seeks tougher DWI measures
The day Chris Brown left Woodleaf Lanes bowling alley after shooting a 289, he was over the moon with excitement. He didn’t realize that his life was about to change forever.
On a rainy Saturday, April 19, at 2 p.m., Brown’s 2012 Chevrolet Silverado was hit head-on by a drunk driver on St. Paul’s Church Road. Brown was trapped inside the truck. Firefighters had to cut him out of the vehicle with the Jaws of Life. He was taken to Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast with serious injuries.
Upon arrival at the hospital, Brown’s wife Kim was told that he had a shattered hip, punctured lung, nerve damage, and his kidneys were beginning to shut down.
He was then transported to the Carolinas Medical Center-Main Trauma Center in Charlotte by the Critical Care Transport team.
Brown called the hospital “home” for five long days. His family waited to hear good news. The passenger in the crash, Brown’s 21-year-old brother, did not sustain any injuries.
The driver charged with DWI, Mark Edward Carter, suffered minor injuries. Authorities said Carter was driving illegally with a suspended license, having restrictions that allowed him only to drive to work on week days. His license had been suspended due to a previous conviction of driving while impaired in August 2013.
Currently, Brown is in physical therapy and received a hip replacement last week. After the surgery, he will begin rigorous therapy sessions to learn how to walk again. He takes prescribed medication daily to help him deal with severe pain.
The crash not only caused physical and emotional damage but left the family financially devastated. The family lost their primary source of income since Brown is out of work.
“We are living paycheck to paycheck,” his wife said. “Thankfully, we had money put away and have been able to pay our rent. After December, I am not sure I will be able to afford the roof over our head.”
The crash also ruined their credit. “We started receiving medical bills, and we just aren’t able to pay them. They have been sent to collections,” she said.
The Browns recently attended their first court appearance involving the case.
“We want to see justice for our family. We want his life to be taken from him like ours was taken from us. He deserves to be in jail. He was able to walk into the courtroom. My husband can’t,” Brown’s wife said.
“First-time offenders should not get a second chance. All cases of drunk driving should be felonies — there is no excuse,” Brown said. “Don’t stand by. Do something. Don’t be the next victim.”
N.C. Rep. Harry Warren, a Republican from Salisbury, said penalties for drunk driving have been strengthened.
In 2012, he helped pass Laura’s Law, a bill named in recognition of 17-year-old Laura Fortenberry, who died when the car she was riding in was struck by an impaired driver who had previous DWI convictions. The law increases the maximum punishment for impaired driving, increases the length of time for alcohol monitoring as a condition of probation, and makes other changes applicable to defendants charged with and sentenced for DWI.
“I don’t think the issue is in the laws. The real problem is the sentencing and how much time the guilty person ends up serving,” he said. “A felony for a first-time offender is pretty harsh punishment, but it all depends on what they blow on the Breathalyzer.”
According to statistics on the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office website, 191 people were arrested in Rowan County in 2012 on charges of driving while intoxicated. That is up from the 180 arrested in 2011. In North Carolina, more than 46,000 people were arrested for driving while intoxicated. Statistics for 2013 were not available.
Megan Braun is a North Rowan High School senior and Salisbury Post intern.
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