Johnston County celebrates successes of DWI court
Posted June 16, 2009 4:57 p.m. EDT
Updated June 16, 2009 6:00 p.m. EDT
Smithfield, N.C. — A special court that handles only DWI cases in Johnston County is succeeding with its goal of clearing the case backlog, according to District Attorney Susan Doyle.
Doyle's office released data Tuesday citing 345 convictions with a conviction rate of approximately 85 percent since the court’s inception in October of 2008.
The program is funded by a grant from the Governor's Highway Safety Program. District Court judges from Wake and other surrounding counties hear DWI cases three days a week.
The DWI court was established after Doyle asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the high rate of dismissed drunken-driving cases in the county. A WRAL News investigation found 46 percent of DWI charges filed in Johnston County in 2006 were dismissed, compared with the statewide dismissal rate of 21 percent.
Part of the problem in the past with dismissals, Doyle said, is that cases were delayed while defense attorneys "shop" for judges they consider more lenient.
In March, a Johnston County grand jury indicted a former prosecutor, a former court clerk and four defense lawyers on charges that they fixed drunken-driving cases.