A person can be charged with aiding and abetting an impaired driver when she knowingly advises, instigates, encourages, or aids another person to drive while under the influence and her actions cause or contribute to the commission of that crime. The punishment for this misdemeanor offense is the same as being convicted of DWI/DUI. That is a bitter pill to swallow considering the person charged was never driving.
In Wake County, we generally only see this charge when a person has let someone else drive their car and the driver is eventually arrested for DWI/DUI. It seems that ownership of the car had a lot to do with whether a passenger would be charged with this serious misdemeanor.
The District Attorney’s Office almost never prosecutes a person for aid and abet DWI/DUI. In fact, I have seen and personally handled hundreds of these charges and have not once seen anyone prosecuted. Generally, the case is kept on the calendar until the person charged with DWI/DUI resolves their case, then the aid and abet charge is dismissed.
Regardless of the District Attorney’s general position in these cases, the Raleigh Police Department has created a new policy on how they charge this crime. Starting this year, ANY passenger in a car stopped for suspicion of DWI/DUI will be charged with aiding and abetting if the driver is eventually charged with DWI/DUI. It doesn’t matter whose car it is or how many passengers there are. I have already seen cases where three passengers have all been charged with this same offense.
This new policy brings up concerns. How can the state prove that all passengers knew the driver was impaired? What actions from a passenger contribute to the driver committing DWI/DUI? Even with this new charging policy from the Raleigh Police Department, I believe the District Attorney will still handle these charges in the same way as they always have.