The DWI Courtroom
If you've been charged with a DWI in Wake County, NC, here's what you may encounter in the process.
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For those facing a DWI charge in Wake County, they may evenutally find their way into the DWI courtroom. Presently, that courtroom is referred to as '5C' however with the move to the new Justice Center, the new Dwi courtroom will be held in rooms 403 and 404. This courtroom was created to allow for DWI trials to be handled in one courtroom set aside for no other matters then DWI. This can help relieve some of the pressure in regular district court, where all kinds of misdemeanor and traffic charges are heard, as DWI trials can take a large portion of time that court has to process many, many cases. Unfortunately, this courtroom has become a point of frustration for the local criminal defense bar as it's intended use and rules are not being appropriately followed, to the detriment of the Defendants.
The DWI courtroom in Wake County was designed to allow the State and the Defendant to have a set date for trial, so that neither the Defendant, nor the State's witnesses (most of the time the Police Officers involved in the arrest) would needlessly have to continue coming to court to only have the matter continued when one side or ther other is not ready to proceed. Originally, this was managed by having the case moved to courtroom 5C for some unknown future date selected by the State. The problem with this design was that the State was receiving an unfair advantage in preparing for trial where they could have all of their witnesses and evidence lined up before ever having to set a date that they must meet. While that may seem awfully convenient, in some instances the Defendant would wait months to have their day in court which was argued to be a violation of their right to a speedy trial.
Eventually, the new rules were created for the DWI courtroom that more fairly establish the trial date. When a matter is moved into the DWI courtroom for regular district court, an 'Administrative Date' is given. On the administrative date, the State and the Defendant agree on a date certain at which the trial will take place. This date is suppose to be the end all, be all of dates and is normally a month or two in the future. Certainly, both sides of the necessary time to prepare for trial during this time. Additionally, the State is still able to cordinate the date with those dates their witnesses are suppose to be in court anyways. Unfortunately, recently the State has been unprepared for trial on the date certain, and instead of denying the State's motion to continue, Judges have been granting the State's motion. Now, certainly unforeseen circumstances can arise where the State was otherwise prepared except for something they had no control over. However, recently the State was not prepared to proceed with the trial on the trial date solely for the fact that they failed to subpoena their necessary witnesses. As a Defense Attorney, I can certainly sympathize with the State's burden of handling a large collection of cases, but that burden is no different then Raleigh Defense Attorneys have with their case load. Certainly if the Defense Attorney were to stand before the Judge and state that they needed the case to be continued because they had not properly prepared, even though the trial date had been set for two months, the Defense Attorney would be required to proceed.
Also of importance, is the fact that the State is not without recourse should the Judge deny State's motion to continue. It is within the State's power to refile the charges after having to dimiss them if the continuance is denied. So the State could dismiss the charges, and immediately refile them if they so chose. Now, it's understandable that some may argue that that would be a waste of Judicial resources, but there should be some reprecussions to the State if they are not prepared for trial on the date THEY selected for themselves.
Hopefully the State will get better prepared and these instances will reduce or stop all together. However, until that happens, Attorneys would be wise to fight the State's efforts to move matters into the DWI court if they will receive multiple opportunities to prosecute the Defendant whether they are properly prepared or not.