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Drunk Driver in Fatal North Carolina Accident Had Six Prior DWI Convictions

Daniel Herring, 41, was driving home after playing Jesus in a pageant at a local church in Monroe, N.C. He never made it. His car was struck head-on by a pickup truck. Eyewitnesses reported that the engine of Herring's vehicle was pushed back into the passenger compartment. Herring died on the scene.

The driver of the pickup truck, 29-year-old Kevin Ohagan, and a female passenger were unconscious when reached by bystanders. When Ohagan regained consciousness, his first words were, "I didn't do it. I have to get out of here." He then fled the scene and struck another motorist's car while being chased by police.

Ohagan was charged with second-degree murder, felony death by motor vehicle, driving while intoxicated (DWI), driving left of the center line, and other charges. He had been convicted of driving while intoxicated on six prior occasions over the past decade. It appears from published reports that he served jail time for only two of these six convictions.

Police records show that Ohagan's criminal career was not limited to drunk driving. At the time of the accident, he was awaiting trial for felony child abuse involving serious injury. He was also convicted on six other occasions on charges including breaking and entering, assault, and false imprisonment.

North Carolina officials have expressed frustration with the difficulty of keeping repeat drunk drivers off the road. This summer, a recent high school graduate was killed by a drunk driver who collided head-on with her vehicle in Gaston County. That offender, 28-year-old Howard Pasour, had three prior DWI convictions. He was subsequently charged with second-degree murder.

Critics of North Carolina's drunk driving laws believe they are much too lenient. Drunk driving becomes a felony only after the fourth offense in ten years. Furthermore, there is no mandatory, minimum sentence for drunk driving. Although Pasour's license had been revoked, nothing prevented him from owning or registering a vehicle in North Carolina.

Some states require DWI offenders to equip their car with interlock devices that require a breath sample before allowing the car to start. However, in both of these cases, the drivers had all their driving privileges revoked.

Charlotte Observer
Gaston Gazette