Judicial Quotas in DUI Trials?

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on October 11th, 2005

How do you get more convictions in DUI cases?  Easy: just tell judges to find more people guilty…..


Conviction rates for DWI increase statewide

CHARLOTTE, The Associated Press – Statewide convictions for driving while intoxicated have jumped in the year since a newspaper series spotlighted the acquittal of thousands of defendants who tested over the state's blood alcohol limit.

The August 2004 series by The Charlotte Observer showed North Carolina judges acquitted more than a third of defendants who went to trial after testing over the state-mandated limit of 0.08 percent

Since then, the statewide conviction rate has risen from 63 percent to 71 percent, The Observer reported Tuesday.

The paper's reporting last year prompted Beverly Lake Jr., chief justice of the state Supreme Court, to send a memo to the state's chief District Court judges instructing them not to make prosecutors' burden of proof in DWI cases more difficult than the law requires….

"When the chief justice says .08 means you're guilty … that'll make the judges think twice about acquitting somebody," (attorney George) Laughrun said….

In Wake County, the DWI trial conviction rate nearly tripled from 17 percent to 50 percent, The Observer said.  In Mecklenburg County, the lineup of judges hearing DWI cases changed. The judge with the county's lowest conviction rate, Jerome Leonard, stopped hearing cases….

Cheryl Jones, head of the Charlotte region's Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter, said the changes are "amazing."  "It is going to make our roads safer because a number of people who are convicted will get the message," she said.

As any attorney will tell you, ordering judges "not to make prosecutors' burden of proof in DWI cases more difficult than the law requires" is not-so-subtle legalese for "Convict more defendants".  (How do you make the burden more difficult than proof beyond a reasonable doubt?)

It looks like the judiciary has decided to ignore irritating "technicalities" like the presumption of innocence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt, not to mention the accuracy and reliability of evidence in individual cases, and simply adopt the police strategy of using quotas.  And if a judge's DUI conviction rate isn't up to production standards, he doesn't preside over any more cases.  Kind of like an assembly line.

Your independent judiciary at work.

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