North Carolina DUI Arrests Hispanics Dropping

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According to LaVozIndependiente.com, a news publication for Spanish-speaking U.S. residents, research indicates that fewer Hispanics living in North Carolina are being charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI).

Specifically, sources cite figures gathered by the University of North Carolina's Highway Safety Research Center. According to the data, Hispanics charged with North Carolina DUI accounted for 13.15% of all traffic charges in 2002; five years later, in 2007, that number had dropped to 7.3%.

And this decrease of nearly half isn't the result of fewer Hispanics living in the state, it seems. Apparently, DUIs involving Hispanic drivers have decreased even as that group's population has risen in North Carolina.

But the good news doesn't stop there: sources indicate that the overall percentage of crashes involving Hispanic drivers also decreased between 2002 and 2007, falling from 8.58% to 6.87%. Evidently, the state's Director of the Governor's Highway Safety Program believes that the lowered rates can be attributed to successful anti-drunk driving education efforts in Hispanic communities.

No matter what caused them, though, the lowered numbers could be important for the image of Hispanic Americans among anti-immigration groups. It seems that some such organizations have cited high-profile fatal DUI crashes involving Hispanic drivers in arguments for stricter enforcement of immigration laws and even for stricter laws, which would allow for deportation in cases of DUI.

Indeed, the link between DUI and immigration issues appears to be a hot one in North Carolina.

In January, the state legislature reportedly passed a law that requires jailers to determine the immigration status of all those in lockup for DUI charges. The law has apparently proven difficult to enforce, though, as anyone who wishes to verify someone's immigration status must check a restricted database run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a federal organization.

And, to further complicate the determination of legal status, some DUI suspects allegedly offer false names, in hopes of avoiding legal entanglements beyond those involved in addressing DUI charges.

But it looks like North Carolina law enforcement officials have already conceived of ways to get around the problem of restricted immigration documents. According to LaVozIndependiente.com, some state jail operators are participating in the 287g program, which allows local jailers to get certified as federal immigration agents.

With this certification, they can then access the immigration status database needed to determine whether or not DUI suspects are in the country legally.

The article did not mention the potential effect that a 2004 law prohibiting illegal immigrants from renewing their driver's licenses may have had on the decreased statistics. It seems that, as the licenses of many undocumented immigrants begin to expire, those without legal permission to be in the U.S. are driving less and less, for fear of the consequences.


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