DUI Dismissals for Sale

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on April 22nd, 2006

I've commented in the past on how the so-called "war of drunk driving" is evolving into a revenue-raising ploy by local governments ("How to Make a Million in the DUI Business" and "DUI Roadblocks for Fun and Profit").

Just so we're clear on where the "War on Drunk Driving" is headed, take a look at what's been happening in Washington State. The courts in the Tri-Cities area (Kennewick, Pasco and Richland) have a "cash-for-deals" approach to those arrested for drunk driving: contribute some money to the police department or a designated charity and your DUI charges will be dismissed or reduced. If you don't have the money, apparently, you get convicted.

Unfortunately, the local gold mine caught the FBI's interest — but only because the cash started going into the wrong pockets:


Deals for Dollars Gain Statewide Notoriety

Tri-City Herald, April 17. News about Tri-City jurisdictions reducing or dropping criminal charges in exchange for cash donations just keeps on coming. Now, our local programs have drawn statewide attention — and criticism…

Public opinion of the cash-for-deals programs varies, with some citizens outraged while others wish they had known such options were available. Some attorneys and noted ethics experts see big red flags when the justice system is circumvented for any reason. Attorneys in larger municipalities than ours seem less likely to engage in the practice.

In Richland, however, the cash-for-deals program is a source of pride. So much so that the city's chief prosecutor can't imagine why other cities aren't jumping on the money train.

Richland's program has a nearly solitary focus: Qualifying offenders charged with DUI end up with a lesser conviction for first-degree negligent driving in exchange for a donation to the city's police restitution fund. Since the fund was created in 2001 by Raymond Hui, the city's chief prosecutor, nearly $250,000 has been received…

The most simple resolution to this controversial practice would be to end it altogether. But some jurisdictions — especially those benefiting greatly and not being investigated by the FBI — may balk at losing a lucrative source of funding.


(Thanks to Gary Paulson.)

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