Local News

Increase in DWI cases create new challenges for Wake courts

Posted January 13, 2015

— Federal grants are helping Wake County law enforcement officers get drunken drivers off the street and into the courtroom, but prosecutors say the effort is adding cases on top of already overwhelming caseloads.

For the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the number of driving while impaired cases in the county is expected to reach 7,000, or about a 50 percent increase over the previous year.

"Right now, all of these cases still have to go through the same eye of the needle," Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Tuesday. "That's tough pushing through an additional 2,000-plus DWIs."

Freeman says courtrooms are packed with DWI cases. In May, two courtrooms were assigned to handle only DWIs, and this month, she assigned an additional prosecutor to work solely on the cases, bringing the total number to four.

"These cases are important. We want to make sure they get the attention they need and that they're handled appropriately," Freeman said.

District Judge Ned Mangum, who was interim district attorney for eight months last year, has concerns about the court resources DWI cases require.

"This court system can handle 20,000 to 50,000 speeding tickets faster than it can handle 2,000 impaired driving cases, because they're so complex and take time," Mangum said.

Current laws give defendants no incentive to plead guilty. Some defense attorneys believe changes to DWI laws that would allow plea bargains would decrease the caseload significantly.

"That's why you're seeing a volume of DWI cases build up without the ability of the state to resolve them any other way than by trying them," attorney Bill Young said.

Changing the law would be up to the General Assembly.

Freeman says she is not in favor of changing DWI laws. She would like to see lawmakers allocate more funding for prosecutors and judges.

"We want to avoid a backlog in these cases, if at all possible," she said.


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  • Melvin Denis Jan 14, 2015
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    Taking their drivers license away won't work because they are going to drive again anyway. Time to take their car away on second offense.

  • gunmonkey Jan 14, 2015

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    You are absolutely right. It is the same for traffic tickets too. I had a roommate who was fighting a driving without a license charge. I had to take her to court every month while her lawyer kept delaying the case, waiting for the right judge/traffic cop no show to happen. It is a joke

  • John Weston Jan 14, 2015
    user avatar

    Does anybody know if the smartphone breathalyzer apps are accurate? I wouldn't mind having one if they are. Saw one on Shark Tank a few weeks back so I know they are out there. This might be a good way for folks to gauge how close to the (low) limit they are and make a better call.

  • Keith Bonham Jan 14, 2015
    user avatar

    Big difference between being manufactured from a plant and being a plant itself. That's where the line is drawn.

  • lilpartigrl Jan 14, 2015

    Come sit in court and see how the defense attorney's work.... walk in, see who the judge is, see the office is there and then disappear until court is almost over. Then attempt to get the case either continued or marked as "not reached". It's just a game... waiting to get the date with the right "not guilty" judge or the officer not present. The defense does that the option to plea the case, but typically files frivolous motions again just to waste time and delay the inevitable. I'm all about a person's rights but if you're guilty, then just accept it and move on; stop wasting everyones time.

  • Black HelicoptersNFood Insurance Jan 14, 2015

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    A single second of delay going 60 MPH is 88 feet. That is 88 feet of kids running in the road, cars swerving, extra time checking your mirrors for the police you don't see the road, etc that a ‘buzzing’ person might fail to stop / react in time. But a drunk driver will tell you every time they drive "better drunk."

  • 1jalapeno Jan 14, 2015

    Why can't driving while intoxicated convictions be simple? If you were caught driving and failed a sobriety test, you're guilty. Go directly to jail and lose your license.

  • Bernadette Dan Unger Jan 14, 2015
    user avatar

    Start by making the initial offense a VERY harsh punishment. Get rid of the wording that says "if convicted, you MAY receive" and change it to "you WILL receive" a specific penalty. Now increase it to those mushbrainers that hit a DWI for a second time and slam them so hard with fines and jail time that they have no money for booze again. Jails overloaded, no problem, erect a tent city enclosed in wire. You just keep waiting until one of these drunks kills a member or members of your family, then it is too late for your say to mean much. There is absolutely no reason for driving drunk.

  • Black HelicoptersNFood Insurance Jan 14, 2015

    Love when they bring up DWI cases and the people who are always on their soapbox about “personal responsibility” start coming out of the woodwork saying how they shouldn’t been be held responsible for their personal actions (drunk driving).

  • 68_dodge_polara Jan 14, 2015

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    Reckless driving is reckless driving. For which the penalties are pretty stiff and should applied to anyone driving recklessly whether they had to much alcohol, drugs (prescription or not), distracted by using a phone, sleepiness, or anything else that might cause someone to drive dangerously.