Local News

Wake County Receives Grant To Help Dispose Of Old DWI Cases

Posted June 15, 2004

— Every year in Wake County, 4,000 people are charged with drunk driving.

For an already overloaded court system, the cases often slow the process to a grinding halt. But the Wake County district attorney's office has a plan to get things moving again.

When a person comes in front of a judge on a DWI case, the case often gets continued -- sometimes again and again and again. There are 500 cases in Wake County that are more than a year old, 400 that are more than two years old.

In a process known as "judge shopping," defense attorneys will continue a case until they get a judge they believe will be easier on their client.

Derrell Jernigan, of the Governor's Highway Safety Commission, is in the process of giving the Wake County court system a $100,000 grant to help dispose of old DWI cases.

"We have to have a quicker response from our court systems to get these cases tried," Jernigan said.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby applied for the grant after looking at the county's DWI backlog.

"These are cases that really need attention," Willoughby said. "Some of these drivers are still on the road. Some of these drivers may be a danger to the community."

The grant will pay for a DA, a judge and a court clerk to try cases three days a week for at least a year --- long enough, many believe, to get a handle on the problem.

The program originally was slated to start in October. But the DA's office hopes there will be enough money to begin as soon as August.

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