Ronnie Burdette Dodd (Photo: NCDOC)
ASHEVILLE, NC -- Ever since 2 Wants To Know told you about a North Carolina man getting 17 DWI's, viewers have flooded our Facebook with one question: How can it happen? So we kept digging into the timeline of his crimes to answer that question.
From Ronnie Dodd's first conviction in 1983, he racked up DWI after DWI after DWI - 10 total by 1992. Each time he just served short sentences because they were only misdemeanors. Local DWI attorney John Fitzgerald says those kinds of punishments were common.
"Back then the laws were lenient and the social attitudes towards DWI were different than they are now," Fitzgerald said.
Dodd was convicted of DWI'S 11, 12, and 13 in the 90s. Fitzgerald says that's when the state passed tougher drunk driving laws. So Dodd finally spent time in prison for habitual DWI -- a felony -- in 1995.
For the next 11 years, Dodd's kept his DWI record clean. Then in 2007 he was convicted again - twice. But because so many years passed between offenses, legally, the system couldn't use his past convictions in his sentencing. DWI's 14 and 15 were once again considered misdemeanors. It was as if the previous felony habitual DWI never happened.
State Representative Marcus Brandon says Dodd fell into a crack in the legal system. And Brandon wants it closed.
"Under no other law. No conviction do we do that, except DWI - and it's probably the most dangerous crime one could commit besides murder," Brandon said.
The crack in the system let Dodd keep driving drunk and be charged with misdemeanors. It took another 7 years and his 17th DWI conviction in 2013 to convict Dodd of the felony habitual DWI charge AGAIN.
Brandon introduced a bill to remove the time restrictions between offenses for habitual offenders, but it's stalled in the Senate.