WRAL Investigates

Clayton gets tough on drunken driving

Posted May 23, 2008

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— To combat Johnston County's reputation for being soft on drunken driving, Clayton Police Chief Glen Allen has ordered his officers to recharge people whose charges were dismissed before trial.

Forty-six percent of the driving while impaired charges filed in Johnston County were dismissed in 2006, the latest year for which records are available, according to the Administrative Office of Courts. Statewide, the dismissal rate for DWI charges was 21 percent that year.

Records show many cases get tossed out when arresting officers didn't show up for court. Allen now requires his officers to detail why they didn't make it to a trial date, and he then has them refile the charges.

A WRAL investigation found many DWI cases were dismissed despite legitimate reasons for officers' absences, such as attending a funeral, assisting with the birth of a child or serving in the military.

Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said defense attorneys delay for months, getting repeated continuances, hoping to hit a date when an officer misses court.

"For a DWI to be continued 10, 12, 16, 18 times – there's no excuse for that," Bizzell said.

Refiling charges against suspected drunk drivers will help combat that practice, Allen said.

"I think what the defense attorneys are doing is they're using every tactic available to them, and I think we as law enforcement officers and the prosecution should use every legal tactic available to us," he said.

More than 60,000 people were charged with DWI statewide in 2006, the last year for which data is available. About 8,400 cases were voluntarily dismissed by a prosecutor, and another 5,300 were dismissed with a possibility of reopening the case at a later date.

Other counties also have high rates of DWI dismissals. Harnett County drops 50 percent of its cases, while the rate in Lee County  is 34 percent.

The sobering statistics don't sit well with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"It was startling. It really was. I could not believe it because (it was) right here in our back yard," said Craig Lloyd, executive director of MADD North Carolina. "When it's happening like this, justice is not being served."

Lloyd said MADD would try to help improve the DWI conviction rate in Johnston County by having volunteers monitor court dates, cases and trends.


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  • Centurian May 26, 2008

    If the case is dismissed before the hearing (trial) is commenced, then double-jeopardy does not apply. Dismissed charges can be easily reinstated with a little time and paperwork.

  • Vietnam Vet May 26, 2008

    I'm a little concerned here. These charges were dismissed generally because the arresting/citing officer was unable to make the court appearance if I understand the article correctly. Whether or not there were continuances involved or not the bottom line is that the charges were dismissed. I'd like to know how these dismissed charges could be refiled?

  • steelslinger512 May 23, 2008

    Clayton Police Chief Glen Allen deserves a "atta boy"

  • Centurian May 23, 2008

    I'll bet those drunk drivers are suprised when they get summoned back to court on the same DWI charge they thought their attorney had gotten dismissed! I wonder what they say when they call their lawyer to whom hey paid $2500.00 for the dismisal only to ask "What the Heck's going on here? I'm STILL charged! Where's my money?!"

  • slappyh99 May 23, 2008

    According to the story those figures were from 2006. Susan Doyle was elected in November 2006 so the high dismissal rate can't be blamed on her. Hopefully she will everything possible to correct the problem.

  • NCGal May 23, 2008

    Susan Doyle is DA for Johnston, Harnett & Lee Counties.

    Johnston has a dismissal rate of 46%, Harnett has a 50% dismissal rate & Lee has a 34% dismissal rate.

    Looks like MADD should monitor the entire district.