The Politics of DWI in North Carolina

The District Court judges of Cumberland County, North Carolina, had a record of leniency in North Carolina DWI cases. In the most recent fiscal year, the two incumbent judges issued drunk driving convictions in 72% of the cases presented in their courtrooms. That is well below the state average of 92%, which raised complaints and concerns from law enforcement.

A former Fayetteville Police Chief said, “I think, at least, Cumberland County should be at or better than the state average because I know for a fact that generally the police officers in this area are well-trained, they have adequate equipment and generally the arrests
are scrutinized (and) are supervised.”

Voters obviously agreed. The latest election unseated the incumbents, as voters sided with two judicial candidates whose campaigns raised issue with the low DWI conviction rate.

North Carolina DWI defense attorneys are optimistic that the new judges will still balance the facts in drunk driving cases. They feel judicial ability to apply the law fairly will outweigh a political agenda.

Regardless of the intent and future decisions of the two new North Carolina District Court judges, DWI conviction rates are expected to rise in North Carolina. Starting in December, a series of new laws goes into effect that will increase the penalties for drunk driving and make it more difficult to avoid or reduce the charges.

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