Judges Told They Have “Different Role” in DUI Cases

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on July 25th, 2008

Most of you out there probably thought that citizens accused of drunk driving were afforded the same constitutional rights as citizens accused of any other crime.  Included in this, presumably, is the right to have a fair and impartial judge hearing your case.

Wrong.

Consider the following excerpts from a website entitled "The Court's Role in Reducing the Incidence of Impaired Driving: A Resource for General Jurisdiction Court Judges".   The site is maintained by The National Center for State Courts near Washington, D.C., which provides seminars, conferences, research and educational materials for judges nationwide.

 
"What is the role of the courts in DUI Cases?"

In DWI cases, courts can have a much broader role than in many other types of cases. Through its interaction with law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, defendants, the public, and the press, the court establishes a tone toward DWI cases in the community. This is evident when the court addresses a defendant at sentencing to stress the severity of a DWI offense, invites school groups to attend DWI trials or dockets, or explains to law enforcement procedural shortcomings following unsuccessfully prosecuted cases. Judges, through their roles on the bench and in their personal lives, are leaders in the community and the attitudes they express are critical to shape public attitude toward DWI prevention and enforcement.  (Emphasis added.)


Hmm…So the judge's role in DUI cases is "broader" - to "establish a tone toward DUI cases in the community", to "shape public attitude toward DWI prevention and enforcement", and to help the police get more convictions.  I guess high conviction rates, Draconian sentences and turning a blind eye to constitutional violations helps establish that tone. 

After 39 years of practice, I can still remember when judges were supposed to be impartial, even in drunk driving cases.


(Thanks to Jeffrey C. Meadows, Esq.)

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