The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday November 26th

Student Government Looks at DUI Penalty

From Oct. 1, 2001, to Aug. 7, 2002, there were five DUI arrests reported by police, according to the Office of the Dean of Students. From Aug. 12 to Aug. 29 of this year -- a period of just 17 days -- there already were six. Dave Gilbert, associate dean of students, said the office has only been tracking DUI numbers since last October, although the judicial branch always has kept records of DUI charges.

Of those six reports, three students have been charged. Two of the three that did not result in charges were provisional DUI violations, Gilbert said. Provisional violations are handed out when an underage driver registers any amount of alcohol on a breath-alcohol test. The third was not charged because of an error in the police report.

In April, Student Congress passed legislation to specifically address "driving while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs" as a violation of the Honor Code. The clause has yet to be discussed by the Faculty Council, which must approve the change before it is passed on to Chancellor James Moeser.

Student Attorney General Amanda Spillman said the wording change in the code would not affect how a student is charged. But she said this would make it easier for her office to press the charges -- Spillman said her office has to broadly interpret words in the code to charge for DUIs.

Spillman said the judicial branch is discussing the possibility of further amending the clause to provide a specific penalty for those found guilty. The issue likely will be brought up at a Committee on Student Conduct meeting soon, Spillman said, although she didn't specify a time frame.

The committee recommends changes in the code, which must be approved by Student Congress, the Faculty Council and Moeser before taking effect.

But Student Body Vice President Aaron Hiller said he doubts the changes will pass COSC soon because it will use much of its time on a report that would make more general changes in the honor system. "As for now, the fact that dialogue has begun on a potential DUI sanction is the most important thing," he said.

Jeff McCracken, deputy director of the Department of Public Safety, said his department is fully staffed this year unlike last year, a move that has increased DPS's ability to catch drunk drivers. But he said there is no conscious effort to monitor DUIs. "The department does not have an ongoing DUI campaign," he said.

For Hiller, the increasing numbers might have resulted from more students reporting offenses. After 10 years of little public discussion over how the judicial system works, Hiller said students are now more aware of their right to report crimes.

McCracken said he is not too concerned about the rise in offenses, but Hiller said he is troubled by any DUIs. "These statistics may have brought an increase in drunk driving to our attention, but these numbers don't make the action any more or less reprehensible."

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